"Frankly, I don't expect very much from Xi," he said. "This new Chinese leadership looks to be extraordinarily weak in part because of the seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee, five of them will have to retire by 2017 which means that the jockeying is already underway for the next succession."
He said the government is likely to take a "wait-and-see" attitude while the rest of the international community seeks to exert pressure on North Korea through the United Nations Security Council.
"If North Korea develops longer range ballistic missiles, China doesn't think that they'll be aimed at Beijing. So from China's perspective it has very little interest or need to come down very hard on North Korea until the U.S., Japan and South Korea make it clear to China that allowing North Korea to do this is going to be more costly than cracking down on them," Cheng said.
In a statement Wednesday, China's foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei "expressed regret" about the launch.
"China has always insisted on bringing peace and stability to the Korean Peninsula through multilateral dialogue. We hope relevant parties stay calm in order to maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula," he said.
China has traditionally been a stumbling block in efforts by the international community to pressure North Korea with sanctions imposed through the U.N. Security Council, Klingner said.
"When the U.S. and South Korea went to the U.N. working group after the April launch with a proposed 40 additional entities, China rejected all but three," he said.
He added that the U.S.'s ability to convince Beijing to back its efforts on North Korea will be a real test of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, and the Obama adminstration's policy toward China.