Another View on North Korea

Note: This blog does not agree with the Wikileaks posting of diplomatic documents as there are good reasons why some conflict and other discussions should be off the record and remain that way, as our correspondent Victor advocates in his comments to the Escalation posting. This blog advocates a creative stage in conflict: both sides asking ‘what if’ and this process would be massively constrained if it cannot be confidential. Trust in confidentiality once broken is almost impossible to restore. I cannot conceive of who was stupid enough to make such material exist in one place that could be easily accessed. I understand it was in someway related to the War on Terror! Another casualty to its simple mindedness?

Nevertheless that some good may come of this disastrous leaking, I note that the Guardian reports today that the Wikileaks throw an interesting light on China’s attitude to North Korean, not too dissimilar to the interests I suggested in my recent post on the subject:

The leaked North Korea dispatches detail how:

• South Korea’s vice-foreign minister said he was told by two named senior Chinese officials that they believed Korea should be reunified under Seoul’s control, and that this view was gaining ground with the leadership in Beijing.

• China’s vice-foreign minister told US officials that Pyongyang was behaving like a “spoiled child” to get Washington’s attention in April 2009 by carrying out missile tests.

• A Chinese ambassador warned that North Korean nuclear activity was “a threat to the whole world’s security”.

• Chinese officials assessed that it could cope with an influx of 300,000 North Koreans in the event of serious instability, according to a representative of an international agency, but might need to use the military to seal the border.

In highly sensitive discussions in February this year, the-then South Korean vice-foreign minister, Chun Yung-woo, told a US ambassador, Kathleen Stephens, that younger generation Chinese Communist party leaders no longer regarded North Korea as a useful or reliable ally and would not risk renewed armed conflict on the peninsula, according to a secret cable to Washington.

Chun, who has since been appointed national security adviser to South Korea’s president, said North Korea had already collapsed economically.

Political collapse would ensue once Kim Jong-il died, despite the dictator’s efforts to obtain Chinese help and to secure the succession for his son, Kim Jong-un.

“Citing private conversations during previous sessions of the six-party talks , Chun claimed [the two high-level officials] believed Korea should be unified under ROK [South Korea] control,” Stephens reported.

“The two officials, Chun said, were ready to ‘face the new reality’ that the DPRK [North Korea] now had little value to China as a buffer state – a view that, since North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006, had reportedly gained traction among senior PRC [People’s Republic of China] leaders. Chun argued that in the event of a North Korean collapse, China would clearly ‘not welcome’ any US military presence north of the DMZ [demilitarised zone]. Again citing his conversations with [the officials], Chun said the PRC would be comfortable with a reunified Korea controlled by Seoul and anchored to the US in a ‘benign alliance’ – as long as Korea was not hostile towards China. Tremendous trade and labour-export opportunities for Chinese companies, Chun said, would also help ‘salve’ PRC concerns about … a reunified Korea.

“Chun dismissed the prospect of a possible PRC military intervention in the event of a DPRK collapse, noting that China’s strategic economic interests now lie with the United States, Japan and South Korea – not North Korea.”

Chun told Stephens China was unable to persuade Pyongyang to change its self-defeating policies – Beijing had “much less influence than most people believe” – and lacked the will to enforce its views.

A senior Chinese official, speaking off the record, also said China’s influence with the North was frequently overestimated. But Chinese public opinion was increasingly critical of the North’s behaviour, the official said, and that was reflected in changed government thinking.


About creativeconflictwisdom

I spent 32 years in a Fortune Five company working on conflict: organizational, labor relations and senior management. I have consulted in a dozen different business sectors and the US Military. I work with a local environmental non profit. I have written a book on the neuroscience of conflict, and its implications for conflict handling called Creative Conflict Wisdom (forthcoming).
This entry was posted in Conflict History, Conflict Processes, Rise of China, Ways to handle conflict. Bookmark the permalink.

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