After plunging through the usual resources which consist of my quasi-daily North Korea informational surf, I finally turned to Huanqiu Shibao, the Chinese-language Global Times, to find a big headline (quoting Japanese media, but making it a headline nevertheless): “Kim Jong Il Could Visit China Soon: Possible that Kim Jong Eun Will Travel With Him.” This is a fairly open indication that China is now more formally “rolling out” Kim Jong Eun to the Chinese public, and that the DPRK is welcome to produce the heir publicly to quell the speculation.
Rather than drop in all manner of links here, I would recommend you check my Twitter feed some of which is also available in the sidebar of this blog, for the supporting documentation.
And I can’t escape without sharing these bon mots from Hwang Jang Yop:
Hwang said China should be made to participate in the investigation of the Cheonan’s sinking to show Beijing the extent of North Korea’s actions and give the Chinese government a reason to support or oppose the North. “China and Russia should be made aware of the [Cheonan] disaster so that they understand that our response is justified,” he said. “And if Kim Jong-il takes more provocative measures, they must be punished ruthlessly. The regime is oppressive and is always trying to use violence both internally and against other countries. It must be taught a painful lesson.”
Hwang said fears that China has territorial ambitions in North Korea should not prevent South Korea from seeking help in dealing with Pyongyang. “The important thing to do is to bring the North Korean dictatorship down,” he said. “China must play a role in getting North Korea to open up and pursue reforms. And if the North still refuses to change, then China would have no choice but to abandon it. Change can only come if North Korea feels that pressure.”
After reading the above interview excerpt with a Chosun Ilbo showing its anti-communist colors, maybe China has a reason to want the guy gone?
Given that the noose is tightening even tighter around Kim Jong Il’s neck over North Korea’s involvement in the Cheonan sinking, I’m surprised China would even consider such a move.
From a diplomatic point of view, such a high-level state visit at this time would imply that China stands in solidarity with North Korea, and this would be a pretty huge backhanded slap to the South Koreans. Unless, of course, China is trying to send a message to the South Koreans and the Americans to back off, forget about the whole thing, and return to the status quo ante, in which case we would have a pretty serious international crisis on our hands.
China’s main foreign policy objective in Northeast Asia is to maintain peace and stability. Playing favorites with the North and seriously upsetting the South would appear to contradict this policy. Hence, I think this rumor, like all other recent “Kim Jong Il on the verge of visiting China” rumors will not pan out unless there is some resolution to the Cheonan crisis first.
On the contrary, I think China should receive the Dear Leader for two reasons: (1) Dear Leader’s visit has been in the works for a while, long before the Cheonan incident. So far, despite all the talks of the DPRK’s alleged involvement, there has been no conclusive evidence laying the blame on the DPRK. Now the South Koreans are saying it was some sort of a “non-contact underwater explosion” that sank the Cheonan. What was that? I could be wrong, but I thought mines and torpedoes work by exploding when they physically contact the object (vessel, submarine etc.)? (2) If it turns out that the DPRK was indeed behind it, China should seize the opportunity of the Dear Leader’s visit to ask the North Koreans to tone it down. Stop provoking the South with stuff like the Cheonan and the attempted assassination on Hwang Jang-yop. What’s the use of isolating the DPRK and slapping them in the face? A more isolated DPRK is bad for everyone.
Plus, if you think about it, the relationship between China and the DPRK is not like the one between the US and South Korea. Pyongyang doesn’t take orders from Beijing. Seoul takes orders from Washington. The South Koreans need to realize that.