Wik­ileaks re­veals plans for North Korean col­lapse

The Pak Banker - - 6international -

BEI­JING: Leaked U.S. diplo­matic ca­bles show China's frus­tra­tion with com­mu­nist ally North Korea and spec­u­late Bei­jing would ac­cept a fu­ture Korean penin­sula uni­fied un­der South Korean rule, ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ments re­leased by whis­tle-blow­ing web­site Wik­iLeaks.

The memos in­di­cate the ma­jor im­por­tance Amer­i­can and South Korean di­plo­mats place on China's at­ti­tude to­ward the fu­ture sur­vival of the iso­lated and im­pov­er­ished hard-line com­mu­nist regime in Py­ongyang. The re­lease of the doc­u­ments fol­lows new ten­sions in the re­gion with North Korea un­leash­ing a fiery ar­tillery bar­rage on a South Korean is­land that killed four peo­ple a week ago. The regime also warned that joint U.S.South Korean naval drills this week had pushed the penin­sula to the "brink of war."

China "would be com­fort­able with a re­uni­fied Korea con­trolled by Seoul and an­chored to the US in a 'be­nign al­liance' as long as Korea was not hos­tile to­wards China," South Korea's then-vice for­eign min­is­ter, Chun Yung-woo, is quoted as telling U.S. am­bas­sador to South Korea, Kath­leen Stephens, in Fe­bru­ary.

Eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties in a re­uni­fied Korea could fur­ther in­duce Chi­nese ac­qui­es­cence, Chun says. The diplo­matic ca­bles warn, how­ever, that China - which fought on North Korea's side in the 1950-53 Korean War - would not ac­cept the pres­ence of U.S. troops north of the demil­i­ta­rized zone that cur­rently forms the North­South border. Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry spokesman Hong Lei said China had noted the leaked ca­bles but would not com­ment on spe­cific con­tent.

"China al­ways sup­ports the North and South sides of the Korean penin­sula to have di­a­logue and con­sul­ta­tion to im­prove their re­la­tions," Hong said at a reg­u­larly sched­uled news con­fer­ence.

In the leaked cable, Chun pre­dicts the govern­ment in Py­ongyang would last no more than three years fol­low­ing the death of ail­ing leader Kim Jong Il, who is seek­ing to trans­fer power to son Kim Jong Un, a po­lit­i­cal in­genue in his 20s.

While China fa­vors main­tain­ing the sta­tus quo, it has lit­tle abil­ity to stop a col­lapse and less in­flu­ence over the au­thor­i­ties in Py­ongyang than is widely be­lieved, it says.

"Bei­jing had 'no will' to use its eco­nomic lever­age to force a change in Py­ongyang's poli­cies," Chun says, adding the North Korean lead­er­ship would con­tinue re­fus­ing to dis­man­tle its nu­clear pro­gram in the ab­sence of a more force­ful Chi­nese ap­proach.

Chun also dis­misses the pos­si­bil­ity of Chi­nese mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion if North Korea de­scended into chaos.

De­spite that, China is pre­par­ing to han­dle any out­breaks of un­rest along the border that could fol­low a col­lapse of the regime. Chi­nese of­fi­cials say they could deal with up to 300,000 refugees, but might have to seal the border to main­tain or­der, the memos say, cit­ing an uniden­ti­fied rep­re­sen­ta­tive of an in­ter­na­tional aid group.

Chi­nese of­fi­cials are also quoted as us­ing mock­ing lan­guage in ref­er­ence to North Korea, point­ing to ten­sions be­tween the two neigh­bors in con­trast to of­fi­cial state­ments un­der­scor­ing strong his­tor­i­cal ties. Then-Deputy For­eign Min­is­ter He Yafei is quoted as telling a U.S. of­fi­cial in April 2009 that Py­ongyang was act­ing like a "spoiled child" by stag­ing a mis­sile test in an at­tempt to achieve its de­mand of bi­lat­eral talks with Washington. -Ap

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