Finally a Wikileaks document that surprising. According to some of the leaked State Department documents, China is growing increasingly frustrated by the military antics of North Korea and and increasingly favors reunified Korea under the Government of South Korea.
Now that it has become a world power, the Chinese government wants one thing more than anything else, stability. In recent months North Korea has grown increasingly unpredictable, attacking a South Korean military ship, surprising the world with a brand new nuclear plant, and last week’s mortar attack on the South has not put the world on edge but it has embarrassed the Chinese government who as the North’s number one ally, has been charged with keeping North Korea in line.
The latest batch of released documents reveal that Beijing’s frustration with Pyongyang has grown since its missile and nuclear tests last year, worries about the economic impact of regional instability, and fears that the death of the dictator, Kim Jong-il, could spark a succession struggle.
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 argued that, in the event of a North Korean collapse, China would clearly “not welcome” any U.S. military presence north of the DMZ. XXXXXXXXXXXX Chun XXXXXXXXXXXX said the PRC would be comfortable with a reunified Korea controlled by Seoul and anchored to the United States in a “benign alliance” — as long as Korea was not hostile towards China. Tremendous trade and labor-export opportunities for Chinese companies, Chun said, would also help salve PRC concerns about living with a reunified Korea. Chundismissed 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.
Tremendous trade and labour-export opportunities for Chinese companies, Chun said, would also help ‘salve’ PRC concerns about … a reunified Korea.
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. However according to the cables, the Chinese have no desire to keep propping up the North Koreans, especially since China has been unable to persuade Pyongyang to stop acting crazy.
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.
Further evidence of China’s increasing dismay with Pyongyang comes in a cable in June 2009 from the US ambassador to Kazakhstan, Richard Hoagland. He reported that his Chinese counterpart, Cheng Guoping. was “genuinely concerned by North Korea’s recent nuclear missile tests. ‘We need to solve this problem. It is very troublesome,’ he said, calling Korea’s nuclear activity a ‘threat to the whole world’s security’.”
According to Cheng China “hopes for peaceful reunification in the long term, but he expects the two countries to remain separate in the short term.” China’s objectives were “to ensure they [North Korean leaders] honor their commitments on non-proliferation, maintain stability, and ‘don’t drive [Kim Jong-il] mad’[er].”