Two Essays on Chinese-North Korean Relations, and a Note on the Kim Jong-un Succession

On March 10 and 12, I published short essays on Chinese-North Korean relations with Sino-NK and the China Policy Institute Blog of the University of Nottingham, and preceded these with a note on the ongoing North Korean succession process.

1. “Red Lines and Correct Roads: Recent Chinese Policy Discourse on North Korea,” CPI Blog, University of Nottingham, 10 March 2014.

This essay consists of a close reading of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s statements at the National People’s Congress in Beijing with respect to North Korea. In short, I was trying to tussle with what precisely was old and what was new in the Foreign Minister’s formulation of China’s interests on the Korean peninsula. For a more heavily-linked and better-illustrated version of the same essay, see Sino-NK, where Jon Sullivan, the editor of the CPI blog, kindly gave permission to repost.

In the next few weeks, I may also be discussing the topic of “China’s red line” for the DPRK with the excellent online journal War is Boring (yikes!), but more on that as it develops.

2. “North Korean Missiles and Chinese Passenger Aircraft,” Sino-NK, 12 March 2014.

This essay sets up the more negative turn that public commentary has been taking of late in China toward North Korea, and brings back Wang Hongguang, a commentator who has the distinction of being a PLA general from the Nanjing military district.  After some preliminary remarks, I proceed with a translation of Wang’s op-ed, a portion of which follows:

Wang Hongguang [王洪光], “朝火箭弹穿越中国航线很危险 / “North Korean missiles passing through Chinese air routes is very dangerous,” Huanqiu Shibao, March 11, 2014.

South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense stated last week that North Korea had fired a number of short-range missiles toward the East Sea (Sea of Japan)  and through the air passenger route from Tokyo-Shenyang and a [large] China Southern Airlines passenger jet went through the trajectory of one of these rockets only six minutes later.

After the report came out about this incursion [穿越行动], the relevant authorities [有关部门] and the society have not paid sufficient attention. Online, views are being expressed that Seoul is “making a fuss about it” and “driving a wedge between Beijing and Pyongyang.” But if the news is true, I believe that from a military perspective, the act by North Korea was highly risky. […]

This time,  North Korea launched its  missiles off the east coast and in the direction of the Sea of Japan. Given that they were far from China’s territory, it would be difficult for us to track their trajectory.  Because the launch was anticipated to pass through the Tokyo-Shenyang airline route, which might trigger deadly threats [造成重大威胁] to the safety of flights on this passage, Pyongyang should have informed China and its relevant aviation bodies in advance of launching the missiles, forecasting the time and indicating, in effect, that civilian aircraft would need to get out of the way.

Nonetheless, North Korea knew clearly that the missiles would run across this airline, and, as the North Koreans could clearly see from their radar, they also knew that the China Southern Airlines passenger jet was expected to fly into the danger zone. But they still gave the order to fire!

The behavior of the North Korean side has been extremely  unfriendly toward China [朝方行为是对中国极大的不友好].

The relevant departments certainly cannot sit idly by and watch. Using language like “Without any doubt, China will verify the relevant situation with the relevant party and express necessary concerns over” or “regular flights over North Korea have gone on without any special situation” is just “sketching with light shades” [i.e., playing down the situation] and is not appropriate. Instead, the Chinese authorities must strongly criticize [应该严词批评] , and make North Korea guarantee that henceforth, no similar incident will happen again.

3. “Justifying Hereditary Succession in North Korea,” Sino-NK, 9 March 2014. 

This essay is simply a bit of source-reading as part of an Academy of Korean Studies-funded project which will be sending me to northeast China later this spring to probe at the historical, mythical, and rhetorical connections between North Korean Kimism and the region often referred to as Manchuria.

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