Global Perspective

  • Kim presses his luck with China in the Year of the Monkey

    March 08, 2016 07:40 THE CHINESE government must have expected trouble from its ally, North Korea’s strongman Kim Jong-un, on the occasion of the Chinese and Korean New Year, which started on this February 8. Perhaps that was why Wu Dawei, the Chinese foreign ministry special representative for Korean Peninsula affairs, was sent to Pyongyang on February 2, just before the end of the Year of the Sheep, writes World Review Expert Kati Kang. He carried three requests to North Korea’s supreme leader: establish a political dialogue with South Korea, go back to six-party international negotiations on your nuclear program and do not launch any missiles or atomic devices. According to a source in Beijing, Mr. Wu also conveyed a direct message from Chinese President Xi Jinping to Kim Jong-un: China cannot continue to deflect the international anger over North Korea’s antics any longer. The host listened, but obviously did not give a damn. As if in mockery of the Chinese, Kim Jong-un ordered a test of what looked like a long-range ballistic missile. It went off on February 7, 2016 – the eve of the Year of the Monkey. A firm believer that China is the biggest threat to his country (and hence his need for weapons of mass destruction), the pudgy dictator also canceled the New Year holiday celebrated by the two nations for a millennium – a joyful fiesta of family reunions over food and firecrackers to scare away evil spirits, and a time for men to gamble. Now in North Korea, the birthday anniversaries of Mr. Kim’s grandfather, regime founder Kim Il-sung, are supposed to supplant it as an official public holiday. The missile launch heightened tensions across northeast Asia. It was a defiant signal to the world, especially to the United States, that Kim Jong-un was his own man, neither controlled by China nor afraid of it. And if Washington wanted anything from North Korea, it should talk business directly with him. Beijing opposes Mr. Kim’s nuclear ambitions. It joined the international condemnation of North Korea in December 2015 after it allegedly detonated a hydrogen bomb – the blast occurred at an atomic weapons test site not far from the Chinese border. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs immediately reiterated its government’s long-standing policy that the Korean Peninsula must be a nuclear-free zone. Kim Jong-un replied to this – in his fashion. In January, North Korea’s leading daily Rodong Sinmun (Workers’ Newspaper) published a philosophical commentary full of cryptic allusions to the Chinese: while it is nice to receive aid from outside, North Korea is also fine without it; domestic products are the best and self-reliance is most important, it said. Another article observed that no one will help North Korea in the event of a nuclear war. And while “certain countries” suggest that North Korea remain calm and show restraint toward its enemies, they take a neutral position themselves in the struggle with capitalists and imperialists. The articles did not name any country, but the signal was clear: Kim Jong-un was not going to budge. North Korea’s economy is utterly dependent on China: roughly 70 percent of its total trade is with that country. If Beijing stopped this trade, the Kim regime would be doomed instantly. Yet the fact of the matter is that China has little influence on its client regime in Pyongyang. The Global Times, a Chinese government newspaper, observed with melancholy that the two nations are no longer friendly and that China finds itself under undue pressure from North Korea. It is not difficult to imagine the bitterness toward Kim Jong-un that Chinese officials mask behind such minced words. For a more in-depth look at this subject with scenarios looking to future outcomes, go to our sister site: Geopolitical Information Service. Sign in for 3 Free Reports or Subscribe.
    Kati Kang
    Publication Date: 
    Tue, 2016-03-08 06:00

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