A new release by WikiLeaks shows a series of cables that seems to suggest that Chinese officials are losing their desire to help North Korea. The documents show one Chinese official referring to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as a “spoiled child”. The release of these cables has set off a wave of media reporting in the world. Many media outlets, particularly the Guardian and the New York Times, are suggesting that this is the so-called end of North Korea as a socialist state. However I find such reactions to be very over hyped. We’ve heard for a long time now that such-and-such socialist country was on the verge of collapse, and those saying so have been proven wrong time and time again. Aide from that, the cables do reveal a glimpse into international political playing as it relates to North Korea.
Its not surprising that China, at least one official, might be tired of dealing with North Korea. North Korea has a right to build nuclear energy and a right to build nuclear weapons. After all, they need energy because of blockades and they need weapons as a defence from a country that keeps threatening them with military action and nuclear weapons. Every time nuclear proliferation comes up in the Korean peninsula China is always the middle man between the US threatening aggression and North Korea demanding its right to have such technology. China seems to always have to be the arbiter between the countries. Such a position would become tiresome after a while. Especially if you didn’t really care and just wanted to operate your country without bothering with such foreign politics.
Also in one of the cables, South Korea’s vice foreign minister at the time, Chun Yung-woo said that earlier in the year certain Chinese figures had told him that they think Korea should be united under the South’s control. He is also quoted as saying that those same Chinese officials are saying that such an opinion is becoming more and more popular among Beijing elites.
If these Chinese officials did mean what they said it would certainly display a shift in Chinese opinion over North Korea. This would relieve some stress from China in international obligations. They speak of a united front, but I believe that China is not as genuine as they say. In fact I’ve questioned their dedication to the united front for sometime. However, I question this statement. I think it may be a case of China playing politics. I believe that they may have just said that to ease tensions between China and South Korea. A kind of disingenuous statement with the purpose of getting South Korea off China’s back a bit about their support for North Korea. Like when someone defends being a friend with a person they don’t agree with, “yea, well, he’s my friend”.
The US ambassador in South Korea, Kathleen Stephens, earlier this year quoted Chun on the situation in the DPRK. She reported that he said that the economic situation in North Korea has completely collapsed and that the political situation will collapse as well, two or three years after the death of Kim Jong-Il.
Really this is just what the South is telling America. They have been telling the United States since 1991 that the government and the economic situation was on the verge of collapse. For the past almost 20 years various powers have claimed that North Korea was going to collapse in a ‘few months’. So to me this is just more of the same, I’ll believe the collapse of North Korea when I see it. I’ve no doubt that they are having a hard time, as they have been for the past 20 years, but I don’t see anything changing any time soon. I’ve heard that all too often.
A South Korean cable from April 2009 the quotes the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei as saying: “North Korea wanted to engage directly with the United States and was therefore acting like a “spoiled child” in order to get the attention of the “adult”… China therefore encouraged the United Sates, ‘after some time’ to start to re-engaged the DPRK”.
Fact is North Korea has been asking to deal with the United States for some time now to work on the embargo against them. For the longest time the DPRK has maintained its right to conduct trade with whom ever they please. They have made efforts in the past to talks regarding that situation. However the US is unwilling to ease any sanctions. They no doubt have asked China to encourage the US to come to the table. China has very likely said to the US, “please come to the table, it’ll make you look good like you’re trying to get along with North Korea.” So I think ‘spoiled child’ is one man’s opinion. As one person is quoted as having said it. That’s like taking a statement from one member of Congress and saying all members of Congress are saying that because he did.
Six months later that same year a cable quotes Chinese State Counsellor Dai Bingguo as saying that the North Koreans wanted to have talks with the United States, including possibly multilateral talks. The North is quoted as saying they had ‘great expectations for the United States’. This shows the the North wants to engage in talks about the situation.
Other cables show frustration by Russian and other officials at North Korea’s inflexibility in their positions. And why should they? They have the right to seek nuclear power, nuclear weaponry and have whatever kind of economic and political system they want. They don’t have to change their country to suit US economic desires.
Its important to note that while the WikiLeaks cables reveal much hidden information, it is still subject to bourgeois opinion. All that has been demonstrated here is South Korea’s opinion and what they say Chinese officials have said. If there was a cable from the North Korean government saying there was economic and political instability, that would be quite a different situation.