Tag Archives: Six-party talks

Cablegate: Grim South Korean Take On China’s Leverage Over North Korea

A leaked U.S. State Department cable from February this year, newly made public by WikiLeaks, reports a grim view of China’s leverage over North Korea held by South Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister, Chun Yung-woo. Chun reportedly told American officials that China would be unable to prevent North Korea’s collapse within two to three years of the death of Kim Jong Il, and that it had “far less influence on North Korea ‘than most people believe’.” Chun also said that “Beijing had ‘no will’ to use its economic leverage to force a change in Pyongyang’s policies and the [North Korean] leadership ‘knows it’.”

Without China being prepared to push North Korea to the brink of collapse, Chun thought, Kim’s regime would continue not to take any meaningful steps on denuclearization. Chun also denigrated the abilities of Wu Dawei, head of China’s delegation to the six-party talks on the denuclearization of the peninsula, whom he characterized as a bombastic hardline nationalist blowhard and whom he said was “the most incompetent official in China”.

Wu stood in contrast, Chun said, to the younger generation of China’s Korea policymakers who saw little value to China in North Korea acting as a buffer state between it and South Korea, and who would also tolerate a Seoul-controlled unification government on the peninsula in the event of North Korea’s collapse, provided it was not hostile to Beijing. They would “not welcome” U.S. troops north of the DMZ, however, Chun ventured, but would be reassured by trade and investment opportunities for Chinese companies. Chun also noted that Toyko’s preference was to keep the peninsular divided.

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No Time To Buy Time On The Korean Peninsula

When you don’t know what to do with a problem, punting it to a committee is usually  a safe option. It buys time to come up with an answer if nothing else. That is what China has done with North Korea’s most recent outburst of belligerency in calling for international six-party “emergency talks” to be held in Beijing in early December.

The six would be the same sextet that have been fitfully trying to deal with Pyongyang’s nuclear program — the two Koreas, the U.S., Russia, Japan and China. Those talks have been stalled since April, 2009. Neither South Korea nor Japan have shown much enthusiasm for going along with China’s latest proposal; the U.S. and Russia are still to be heard from, but are likely to be as non-committal.

Meanwhile, the chairman of North Korea’s parliament, who is close to his country’s leader, Kim Jong Il, has been invited to Beijing next week. With the four days of joint U.S.-South Korea naval exercises now underway in the Yellow Sea and North Korea, according to South Korean press reports, deploying surface-to-surface missiles on launch pads in the Yellow Sea and readying land-based surface-to-air missiles, a bit of firm two-party talking between China and North Korea might be the most effective — and most needed — emergency diplomacy.


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