As North Korea's biggest political ally and benefactor, China would appear to hold all the cards when it comes to reining in Kim Jong Un's regime.
However, its response to Pyongyang's latest nuclear test was rather muted Tuesday.
Beijing's foreign minister summoned North Korea's ambassador for a dressing down and sternly expressed "strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition" to the test.
As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Beijing will also join in a meeting set for later this week to discuss how best to respond to the nuclear test. But it remains unclear if Beijing will support tougher new sanctions, or that any new round of UN sanctions or resolutions will have much impact on the reclusive nation's actions.
(Read More: Pyongyang Threatens to Go Beyond Nuclear Test)
Since the 1950-1953 Korean War, North Korea has been subjected to an array of multinational and unilateral sanctions by the international community. The country's leaders have responded to the isolation by focusing even more intently on developing sophisticated weapons and rocket programs that have simultaneously infuriated regional neighbors and drawn them to the negotiating table.
Many regional observers have suggested that international sanctions are doomed to failure as long as Beijing continues to prop up and sustain its neighbor through aid and investment.
Indeed, over the years China has staunchly supported North Korea on the international field, arguing that individual countries have the right to develop rocket programs that were scientific in nature and helping to derail stiffer sanctions against North Korea by the UN.
Last month's surprise announcement that China had joined in with the rest of the UN Security Council in condemning North Korea's latest rocket test seemed to represent a shift in its way of engaging with its neighbor, and long-time Communist comrade. However, it later emerged that China had worked hard to block any new sanctions.
(Read More: North Korea Snubs Key Ally China With Rocket Test)
The Associated Press noted: "Despite being the North's biggest source of aid and diplomatic support, Beijing has been reluctant to back more severe measures that could destabilize the North's hardline regime, which serves as a buffer between China and democratic South Korea backed by U.S. forces."
In the weeks leading up to Tuesday's nuclear test, it has been widely reported that China had been working behind the scenes with North Korea to halt the test and suspend their nuclear program.
Officially, China's Foreign Ministry has maintained steady support for North Korea by lamely calling for peace on the Korean peninsula and greater engagement by all parties.
But in China's state-run media, the frustration towards North Korea has become obvious.