Recently the Seoul newspaper Joongang Ilbo (中央日报) carried an intriguing item which hasn’t received the attention it deserves:
Zhu Feng [朱锋], a professor at the School of International Studies at Peking University, told a seminar in Seoul on Wednesday that Pyongyang has gained increased confidence in its nuclear technology after two underground nuclear tests and will proceed to test with a nuclear warhead. “The Chinese leadership believes that the North has sufficient nuclear [weapons manufacturing] capability and is now entering a stage where it is focused on minimizing the size of a warhead,” Zhu said….
Zhu [further] said that if North Korea collapses, China would only allow South Korea to take control over the North if Pyongyang launched a pre-emptive attack on the South. China otherwise will try to deal with a collapsed North Korea in the United Nations Security Council. He denied a claim that China wants to absorb the North if it implodes, saying such a scenario is incompatible with China’s global geopolitical strategy.
The full article is available in English here.
Since Zhu Feng is such a significant figure in the PRC when it comes to prognosticating North Korean behavior and seems to have close (if still, for me, undefined) ties to the CCP leadership, it’s probably a good idea to see for ourselves what he actually said, particularly on the topics in the article which are merely paraphrased. Fortunately a full Chinese-language version of the article is available and contains much more extensive documentation of Zhu’s direct remarks and contains a healthy dose of the type of derision for North Korea which appears to be becoming increasingly standard in the PRC. [Translations by Adam Cathcart]
Zhu Feng on Kim Jong Il: “中国（领导人集体）认为，金正日国防委员长似乎正在逐渐失去判断力和统治力”，“有代表性的例子就是（去年11月坚决进行的）货币改革事件。如果金委员长状态很好，就不会有这种荒诞行径” [“Chinese leaders believe that Defense Chairman Kim Jong Il is gradually losing his faculties of judgement and his political power…There are signs of this in last year’s currency reform incident…Had the situation with Chairman Kim’s been actually good, it’s truly impossible that this kind of fantastic misstep would have been taken.”
Zhu Feng on North Korean Succession: “如果金委员长逝世，3子金正银将会暂时建立接班体制，也许会走向领导班子体制，但这需要相当长的时间”，“在毛泽东主席逝世后，中国也用了16年时间才确立了领导班子体制。 在今年9月召开的党代表者会上，金正银的接班体制可能会初现轮廓”。 “If Chairman Kim dies, his third son, Kim Jong Eun will be established as provisional successor which will allow fpr movement toward (change of) the leadership structure, but this will take a long time…After the death of Chairman Mao Zedong, China needed 16 years to establish such a leadership system…In September this year, the party will hold a meeting; here we see the silhouette of Kim Jong-il’s succession system.”
Zhu Feng on a North Korean Endgame: “万一朝鲜崩溃，中国基本上会通过联合国安理会介入”，“中国的立场是，只有在朝鲜首先攻击韩国时韩国才可以单独介入（崩溃时朝鲜）”。 “如果朝鲜崩溃中国就会向朝鲜派兵或将朝鲜吸纳为’东北四省’的说法子虚乌有，这是对中国战略性利益的无知。” “In the event that North Korea collapses, China will basically intervene/get involved [介入] via the UN Security Council…China’s position is that South Korea can only independently intervene in the event that North Korea has attacked them first…Those who emptily say that China would send troops to the DPRK in the event of a North Korean collapse with the wish to absorb the so-called ‘fourth Northeastern province’ reveal their ignorance of China’s strategic interests.”
Zhu Feng on North Korea’s Roguish Nature: “虽然我本人认为朝鲜是’流氓国家（rogue state）’，但同流氓（朝鲜）争斗时，如果拿着刀冲过去，双方都会受伤，而问题却得不到解决”，“所以韩国的对朝政策将失败，对朝制裁似乎不会使朝鲜崩溃或解决核问题” “Although I, as an individual, consider North Korea to be a ‘hooligan state’, but whenever one fights with the hooligan, one needs to be aware that he’s holding a blade and can wound both sides, and the societal problem doesn’t get solved…Therefore, South Korea’s policy toward North Korea has failed, because sanctions have been unable to collapse the North Korean system or solve the nuclear problem.”