Is China ready to abandon North Korea?
Leaked Wikileak cables reveal some interesting attitudes that have recently formed in China toward North Korea:
China has signalled its readiness to accept Korean reunification and is privately distancing itself from the North Korean regime, according to leaked US embassy cables that reveal senior Beijing figures regard their official ally as a "spoiled child".
News of the Chinese shift comes at a crucial juncture after the North's artillery bombardment of a South Korean island last week that killed four people and led both sides to threaten war. China has refused to condemn the North Korean action. But today Beijing appeared to bow to US pressure to help bring about a diplomatic solution, calling for "emergency consultations" and inviting a senior North Korean official to Beijing.
This would be hugely significant if true. Some of the things said by PRC officials to representatives of the US and South Korea are eye popping:
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.
A reunified Korea in economic cooperation with China would be an economic powerhouse. Maybe we should be careful what we wish for...