Chronicling a Crisis in Sino-North Korean Relations

The diplomatic records of China’s relations with North Korea since 1948 are full of uncomfortable — and often forced — choices, strained declarations of friendship, and realizations of mutual need.

This relationship has seen hard times in the past, from the ulcer-generating lead up to China’s intervention in the Korean War to the hostile cross-border propaganda war in the late 1960s.   We might draw some lines of continuity between these events and China’s recent — and reluctant — arm-twisting of the DPRK.

Yet few episodes in Sino-North Korean relations were as quietly acrimonious and acidic as the PRC’s recognition of South Korea (the Republic of Korea) in 1992.  For the rest of us, Chinese recognition of South Korea created the conditions whereby discussion of East Asian unity could be realized (that is, the discussions could be realized rather than unity actually achieved!), but for Pyongyang, few positive outcomes resulted.

Sources on this turn of events in 1992 are not nearly as extensive as they need to be, as, bizarrely, few books exist which focus unrelentingly on North Korea’s modern relations with its Chinese counterpart People’s Republic.  (Jae Ho Chang’s Between Ally and Partner is a really fine and worthy piece of work, but it also favors the ROK angle over sustained analysis of the DPRK’s relations with China.)

Fortunately comes to the rescue with a brief overview of Kim Il-sung’s anger in 1992, basing their story upon some new diplomatic memoirs published in the PRC.

【内容提示:“中韩建交” 前夕,中国急派当时的国务院委员兼外交部长钱其琛作为特使乘专机飞赴平壤向朝鲜金日成转达江泽民总书记口信并通报中国决定同韩国建交的事情和立场,然而金 日成听后沉思片刻说“我们将克服一切困难,继续自主地坚持社会主义、建设社会主义。”这与其说是“无奈”,更不如说是“惊人之语”。这次会见是金日成历次 会见中国代表团中时间最短的,会见后也没有按过去的惯例举行宴会招待。金日成的态度显然是“冷谈有余而热情不足”。这一内幕被钱其琛撰写的回忆录《外交十 记》所披露。然而问题远远没有那么简单,历史有它自己的惯性。】

Of course this story might simply be taken as further proof that no one truly loves Jiang Zemin.

Chuck Kraus carries a great deal more analysis of this issue — and North Korean anger at Deng Xiaoping at his role in the 1992 “betrayal” — on his Foreign Devil blog.

【内容提示:“中韩建交” 前夕,中国急派当时的国务院委员兼外交部长钱其琛作为特使乘专机飞赴平壤向朝鲜金日成转达江泽民总书记口信并通报中国决定同韩国建交的事情和立场,然而金 日成听后沉思片刻说“我们将克服一切困难,继续自主地坚持社会主义、建设社会主义。”这与其说是“无奈”,更不如说是“惊人之语”。这次会见是金日成历次 会见中国代表团中时间最短的,会见后也没有按过去的惯例举行宴会招待。金日成的态度显然是“冷谈有余而热情不足”。这一内幕被钱其琛撰写的回忆录《外交十 记》所披露。然而问题远远没有那么简单,历史有它自己的惯性。】

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