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At a time when China's territorial assertiveness has strained its ties with many countries in Asia, and its once-tight hold on Myanmar has weakened, its deteriorating relationship with North Korea, once its vassal, effectively renders it a power with no real allies.China's ties with Myanmar began to deteriorate in late 2011, when Myanmar decided to suspend work on its largest and most controversial Chinese-aided project: the $3.6 billion Myitsone Dam, which is located at the headwaters of the Irrawaddy River. For most observers, the episode that triggered the deterioration in the relationship between China and North Korea – the execution of Kim's uncle by marriage, Jang Song Thaek – simply reflected North Korea's erratic and obscure politics.But China's carefully nurtured "blood relations" with North Korea have been souring almost since Kim succeeded his late father, Kim Jong Il, in late 2011 . If the United States is to seize the diplomatic opening, it must shed its reliance on the Chinese to serve as its intermediary with North Korea – a sore point with the Kim regime, given its desire to reduce its dependency on China.
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