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Wikileaks cables reveal China 'ready to abandon North Korea' | World news | The Guardian

Wikileaks cables reveal China 'ready to abandon North Korea' | World news | The Guardian

China has signalled its readiness to accept Korean reunification and is privately distancing itself from the North Korean regime, according to leaked US embassy cables that reveal senior Beijing figures regard their official ally as a "spoiled child".
News of the Chinese shift comes at a crucial juncture after the North's artillery bombardment of a South Korean island last week that killed four people and led both sides to threaten war. China has refused to condemn the North Korean action. But today Beijing appeared to bow to US pressure to help bring about a diplomatic solution, calling for "emergency consultations" and inviting a senior North Korean official to Beijing.
China is sharply critical of US pressure tactics towards North Korea and wants a resumption of the six-party nuclear disarmament talks. But the Guardian can reveal Beijing's frustration with Pyongyang has grown since its missile and nuclear tests last year, worries about the economic impact of regional instability, and fears that the death of the dictator, Kim Jong-il, could spark a succession struggle.
China's moves to distance itself from Kim are revealed in the latest tranche of leaked US embassy cables published by the Guardian and four international newspapers. Tonight, the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, said the US "deeply regrets" the release of the material byWikiLeaks. They were an "attack on the international community", she said. "It puts people's lives in danger, threatens our national security and undermines efforts to work with other countries to solve shared problems," she told reporters at the state department.
The leaked North Korea dispatches detail how:
 South Korea's vice-foreign minister said he was told by two named senior Chinese officials that they believed Korea should be reunified under Seoul's control, and that this view was gaining ground with the leadership in Beijing.
• China's vice-foreign minister told US officials that Pyongyang was behaving like a "spoiled child" to get Washington's attention in April 2009 by carrying out missile tests.
• A Chinese ambassador warned that North Korean nuclear activity was "a threat to the whole world's security".
• Chinese officials assessed that it could cope with an influx of 300,000 North Koreans in the event of serious instability, according to a representative of an international agency, but might need to use the military to seal the border.
In highly sensitive discussions in February this year, the-then South Korean vice-foreign minister, Chun Yung-woo, told a US ambassador, Kathleen Stephens, that younger generation Chinese Communist party leaders no longer regarded North Korea as a useful or reliable ally and would not risk renewed armed conflict on the peninsula, according to a secret cable to Washington.
Chun, who has since been appointed national security adviser to South Korea's president, said North Korea had already collapsed economically.
Political collapse would ensue once Kim Jong-il died, despite the dictator's efforts to obtain Chinese help and to secure the succession for his son, Kim Jong-un.
"Citing private conversations during previous sessions of the six-party talks , Chun claimed [the two high-level officials] believed Korea should be unified under ROK [South Korea] control," Stephens reported.
"The two officials, Chun said, were ready to 'face the new reality' that the DPRK [North Korea] now had little value to China as a buffer state – a view that, since North Korea's first nuclear test in 2006, had reportedly gained traction among senior PRC [People's Republic of China] leaders. Chun argued that in the event of a North Korean collapse, China would clearly 'not welcome' any US military presence north of the DMZ [demilitarised zone]. Again citing his conversations with [the officials], Chun said the PRC 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. Tremendous trade and labour-export opportunities for Chinese companies, Chun said, would also help 'salve' PRC concerns about … a reunified Korea.
"Chun dismissed the prospect of a possible PRC military intervention in the event of a DPRK collapse, noting that China's strategic economic interests now lie with the United States, Japan and South Korea – not North Korea."
Chun told Stephens China was unable to persuade Pyongyang to change its self-defeating policies – Beijing had "much less influence than most people believe" – and lacked the will to enforce its views.
A senior Chinese official, speaking off the record, also said China's influence with the North was frequently overestimated. But Chinese public opinion was increasingly critical of the North's behaviour, the official said, and that was reflected in changed government thinking.
Previously hidden tensions between Pyongyang and its only ally were also exposed by China's then vice-foreign minister in a meeting in April 2009 with a US embassy official after North Korea blasted a three-stage rocket over Japan into the Pacific. Pyongyang said its purpose was to send a satellite into orbit but the US, South Korea and Japan saw the launch as a test of long-range missile technology.
Discussing how to tackle the issue with the charge d'affaires at the Beijing embassy, He Yafei observed that "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 encouraged the United States, 'after some time', to start to re-engage the DPRK," according to the diplomatic cable sent to Washington.
A second dispatch from September last year described He downplaying the Chinese premier's trip to Pyongyang, telling the US deputy secretary of state, James Steinberg: "We may not like them ... [but] they [the DPRK] are a neighbour."
He said the premier, Wen Jiabao, would push for denuclearisation and a return to the six-party talks. The official also complained that North Korea "often tried to play China off [against] the United States, refusing to convey information about US-DPRK bilateral conversations".
Further evidence of China's increasing dismay with Pyongyang comes in a cable in June 2009 from the US ambassador to Kazakhstan, Richard Hoagland. He reported that his Chinese counterpart, Cheng Guoping. was "genuinely concerned by North Korea's recent nuclear missile tests. 'We need to solve this problem. It is very troublesome,' he said, calling Korea's nuclear activity a 'threat to the whole world's security'."
Cheng said Beijing "hopes for peaceful reunification in the long term, but he expects the two countries to remain separate in the short term", Hoagland reported. China's objectives were "to ensure they [North Korean leaders] honour their commitments on non-proliferation, maintain stability, and 'don't drive [Kim Jong-il] mad'."
While some Chinese officials are reported to have dismissed suggestions that North Korea would implode after Kim's death, another cable offers evidence that Beijing has considered the risk of instability.
It quoted a representative from an international agency saying Chinese officials believed they could absorb 300,000 North Koreans without outside help. If they arrived "all at once" it might use the military to seal the border, create a holding area and meet humanitarian needs. It might also ask other countries for help.
The context of the discussions was not made explicit, although an influx of that scale would only be likely in the event of regime failure. The representative said he was not aware of any contingency planning to deal with large numbers of refugees.
A Seoul embassy cable from January 2009 said China's leader, Hu Jintao, deliberately ducked the issue when the South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak, raised it at a summit.
"We understand Lee asked Hu what China thought about the North Korean domestic political situation and whether Beijing had any contingency plans. This time, Hu apparently pretended not to hear Lee," it said. The cable does not indicate the source of the reports, although elsewhere it talks about contacts at the presidential "blue house" in South Korea.

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  • petranpetran

    29 November 2010 9:35PM
    One of the more interesting stories emerging from the leak.
    China evidently playing a more stabilizing role in the globe than originally thought or argued by quite a few observers over here.
  • SRRonnySRRonny

    29 November 2010 9:41PM
    I hate war but isn't about time that the Yanks and South Koreans Disarmed this lunatic for the safety of the World?
  • StrummeredStrummered

    29 November 2010 9:42PM
    It's quite easy to feel sympathy for China both having to deal and attempt to reason with a completely isolated political basketcase on it's border - The financial costs alone of any reunification would be astronomical for the South.
  • ComplexWorldComplexWorld

    29 November 2010 9:45PM
    This is precisely the sort of news that shouldn't have been published. A desperate, humiliated, insane North Korea might well respond very negatively to this report. Shear and utter irresponsibility to release this sort of news.
  • mem521mem521

    29 November 2010 9:47PM
    Its in Chinas best interest to help the Korea conflict and attempt to halt any further actions. If the north does collapse, the nations adjacent will have a vantage point and if war does start, china ‘will’ have to get involved. Better to stop it now then when a conflict begins. The fact that the US have cited N.Korea is ready to collapse whilst sending in their military should sound alarm bells.
  • polhotpotpolhotpot

    29 November 2010 9:48PM
    I'm so grateful to Wikileaks. This is the first time the news has actually contained anything new (and interesting) for ages.
    I also note that the tabloids are all shunning it in favour of X-Factor.
  • Pat1968Pat1968

    29 November 2010 9:49PM
    A reunified, Seoul controlled Republic of Korea is in everybodies interests, most of all the poor folk in the North.
    I would think though that China would insist that this new Korea is demilitarized and neutral . At the very least they'd demand that US troops withdraw.
    US troops on the border with Manchuria would be an anathema to Beijing.
  • GelionGelion

    29 November 2010 9:52PM
    ..."Beijing is frustrated with military actions of 'spoiled child' and increasingly favours reunified Korea"
    because 50% of it's exports goes to the US.
    Oh dear, North Korea ...
  • BigNowitzkiBigNowitzki

    29 November 2010 9:52PM
    This news is yet another huge setback for the Far Left anti-U.S. mob.
    They thought these leaks would show the U.S. in a bad light and back up their conspiracy-based claims. Instead, the complete opposite has happened - it only highlights what all sensible folk already know, that North Korea and Iran are the major problems on this planet.
    Question is, how is the civilised world going to deal with them.
  • batevoltabatevolta

    29 November 2010 9:54PM
    I'm with you, McSandy. It's been a long long time since I've seen anything resembling cunning coming out of where I was born (the us). The leaks seem to show a pattern of incompetent kleptomania.
    Surprise surprise.
  • circletakesthesquarecircletakesthesquare

    29 November 2010 9:55PM
    I would hope that this information prompts Kim Jong-Il to start playing nicely, knowing that he has driven away even his staunchest ally. Of course that won't happen; he'll either use the line Ahmadinejad did in Iran - "It's a western plot; they fabricated those documents to cause friction between us and our allies", a nice little self-serving fiction, or he'll continue to think himself bulletproof, carrying on his oppression, offense and provocation regardless of consequences.
  • miles11miles11

    29 November 2010 9:56PM
    revealing this information titillates us all but it does not actually assist bring this about. these leaks have done nothing to assist (unless you measure the Guardian's advertising hits as a measure)
  • JamesGreenhalghJamesGreenhalgh

    29 November 2010 9:57PM
    This article seems to preclude the possibility that the Chinese were lying to the US. I do not think this is a safe thing to assume in any of the leaked cables.
    Perhaps it will not only be Berlusconi who is laughing at the leaks.
  • lawmarlawmar

    29 November 2010 10:00PM
    See the situation from China's point of view. They have historical ties to North Korea that they can't just ignore. The Chinese leadership know perfectly well that North Korea is just a dangerous embarrassment, but they probably have little influence on their actions. The last thing China wants is this crazy state acquiring nuclear weapons - how could that possibly be in China's interests? Nor do they want US forces to be sucked into the Korean peninsula with all the risks of mutual friction this implies. The Chinese could deal very happily with a stable prosperous non-communist Korea as long as that state was not anti-Chinese - surely something that would suit all parties. The hard part is getting there without a war or major loss of face. The best solution is for China, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan to form a friendly economic community, bury their historic hatreds however well-founded, and just refuse to play the North Korean game.
  • chris87654chris87654

    29 November 2010 10:07PM
    All sounds good and reasonable. I don't like leaks, but sometimes they serve a purpose. NK has gotten out of control with the nuke program and needs to be stopped - NK doesn't care about the rest of the world and this is dangerous - nukes can bring a hefty sum on the black market. China is a world player now - they want money from exports to other countries. In between the lines, one can see no one is backing NK now - if NK gets aggressive, there will be no World War over it - the biggest threat is refugees into China and South Korea but it sounds like that problem has already been considered.
  • JohnCan45JohnCan45

    29 November 2010 10:07PM
    I'm not surprised Beijing feels this way. What they've always wanted is a friendly and united Korea with the Americans off the peninsula. Seoul could give them that. They need only agree to cut lose their respective partners. That, however, casts Pyongyang and Washington in a different light - they need each other's animosity to maintain the strategic status quo. Otherwise they both leave the stage here.
  • ClunieClunie

    29 November 2010 10:07PM
    29 November 2010 9:56PM
    revealing this information titillates us all but it does not actually assist bring this about. these leaks have done nothing to assist (unless you measure the Guardian's advertising hits as a measure)
    Bring what about? And the objective of news is - or should be - to inform us what's happening in the world, not to make things happen or assist them to happen - that comes (or doesn't) in reaction, it's not the primary purpose of news, which is (or should be) to inform.
    I suspect many would just like to go back to the usual churnalism, press release stenography and celeb worship ASAP.
  • icurahuman2icurahuman2

    29 November 2010 10:08PM
    If America and China ever decided to ally themselves against any other naton that nation might as well bend over and kiss it goodbye, North Korea especially. The very thought of these two usual enemies getting together for mutual survival is very scary. Let's hope it remains in the realm of science fiction! Otherwise the rest of us are screwed!
  • OneWorldGovernmentOneWorldGovernment

    29 November 2010 10:10PM
    This leaves China is a tough position and should hurt the North Korea-China relationship since it is in the public domain. There is no way China wanted this out there in the open. Once again Wikileaks helps the United States.
  • dimmitdimmit

    29 November 2010 10:10PM
    China's main interests in the region should be stability. An aggressive, isolated and increasingly paranoid North Korea that seems to be wracked by famine every ten years or so is not stable and not in China's interest. A united Korea that shares China's historical suspicion of Japan would be a good thing for China. A united Korea (and thus, the end of the North Korean threat), would also lead to a huge reduction in American forces on mainland Asia. That is also certainly in China's interests.
  • tiktintiktin

    29 November 2010 10:14PM
    I'll bet the Chinese leaders get up every morning, read the news, and sigh. China is not "bowing to US pressure", as your report suggests. The Chinese are trying to keep the paranoid lunatics in North Korea and the paranoid lunatics in the United States from killing each other. I'm fairly optimistic that they will succeed.
  • ClunieClunie

    29 November 2010 10:16PM
    OneWorldGovernment: I think you should let Hillary Clinton know how much Wikileaks is helping the United States, she's getting her knickers in a right twist about it and spouting all sorts of shite to the contraryt. And Bradley Manning should be released forthwith and given a medal since he's doing a service to his country surely? Mind you, politicians (American or any other nation's) never did like honesty or transparency for all their guff about the subject, so that's unlikely, unfortunately.
  • chris87654chris87654

    29 November 2010 10:16PM
    lawmar:"The last thing China wants is this crazy state acquiring nuclear weapons - how could that possibly be in China's interests? Nor do they want US forces to be sucked into the Korean peninsula with all the risks of mutual friction this implies."
    I don't think NK would be hard to deal with militarily - main point is no country wants NK to do anything but mellow out. China and Seoul can guard borders, and it sounds like they may even cooperate to do this (not out of love, but of necessity and efficiency). A few strategically placed MOABs is all would take. Problem would be stopping NK from releasing nuke weapons if they're ready to go, but I'm sure someone's watching activity very carefully.
    Got to feel bad for the North Korean people. The country has been held captive by a selfish dictator. With the Little Leader's gone, there would be little resistance, though I'm curious of this article's mention of a "succession struggle" - got to wonder who else might try to take over if there's a power vacuum.
  • hunglehungle

    29 November 2010 10:18PM
    The first truly important, and therefore potentially irresponsible leak from Assange's people. No one can predict how the North will react to the news that it's only overt ally (or as we now know better, exasperated neighbour) foresees the end of the regime, with a reunited Korea under the leadership of the South.
    How much leverage has China lost? It's difficult to see how she can continue to play a restraining role on North Korea after this type of expose. That the NeoCon worldview that China is a some kind of behind-the-scenes puppet master of Kim Il Jong's regime has been exposed as the paranoid fantasies that they are will be scant solace if the outcome of all of this is renewed conflict on the Korean peninsula
  • shad0manshad0man

    29 November 2010 10:19PM
    But how exactly would the North Korean regime 'collapse'? I think their leaders would do anything to cling to power. Surely the other nations in the region can't simply wait until they have nukes. I'm usually against conflict and the misery it brings, but the longer the North Korean regime carries on the more likely they'll whip themselves into a state of hysteria from which they can't return. The least messy quick solution in this scenario would seem to be Chinese tanks rolling into Pyongyang. I wonder how that would play with the rest of the world...
  • RedMangosRedMangos

    29 November 2010 10:20PM
    One of the big problems with the discipline of ' international relations' is evidence.
    These leaks, will give a inside into the thinking behind our decison makers, although not complete, historians must acknowledge this knowledge as invaluable.
    just a thought.
    In my opionion in, American, you get the best and worst of human culture.
    I'll be honest, I know muslim friends and faimily who condemn the US, but it is US Scientsist who have and will continue to produce cures to save lives. I understand and accept this
    American diplomacy is determined by self interest, but there is an idealism and cosmopolitanism about the Americans I admire.
  • howlinhonkyhowlinhonky

    29 November 2010 10:21PM
    yes the north koreans can be defeated easily but seoul is only 30 miles from the border--how much damage can north korea do with artillery in the first hour of fighting
  • alexgjyalexgjy

    29 November 2010 10:22PM
    I'm from China, What the general public from my country is actually hoping 
    people in North Korea can start to have freedom in their country 
    at least , limited freedom like what we are having in China now.
  • lightacandlelightacandle

    29 November 2010 10:23PM
    Ultra sensitive topic, ultra sensitive relations and ultra sensitive moment in time with regard to what's happening the region at the moment.
    Have to say for the first time since leaks appeared I have serious misgivings about the release of such data and question the real need to put such sensitive negotiations, behind the scenes opinions and development of 'private' negotiations into the public arena at such a tentative and unstable time.
    Sorry to say it - but this is definitely irresponsible and could have grave consequences. All of this information should have come out eventually I have no problem with that but not now and not like this. Again I'm sorry to say - highly irresponsible.
  • majikmajik

    29 November 2010 10:26PM
    China has a very tough choice on its hands. It wants to see a stable Korean peninsula in the long term but fears re-unification in the short term.
    South Korea is one of the largest investors in the Chinese economy and any collapse in North Korea would see South Korean investments repatriated to aid in a reunification effort. This could be very damaging to the Chinese economy at a time when it is looking more and more unstable.
  • dimmitdimmit

    29 November 2010 10:28PM
    North Korea already has nuclear weapons. If any country invaded North Korea, they would likely use them which would result in a counter-strike by the United States. Not a good solution to this problem.
    The way to resolve this is through negotiation. If (when?) China starts to pull its financial backing of North Korea, that is when change will occur. China needs to begin to pressure the North's political leaders, while at the same time, developing stronger ties with the military of the North. Because if the North Korean government does fall, at least for the time being, the military will take over.
  • LibertarianLouLibertarianLou

    29 November 2010 10:29PM
    This stuff is so dangerous. There's a reason we have diplomacy, and tact. The world stage is like a giant chess board. This is like a great big toddler decided to pick up the pieces and hurl them around because it didn't understand why it was a game for grown-ups.
  • roboriousroborious

    29 November 2010 10:29PM
    ya, it is very interesting. But anything that was going to happen diplomatically would have happened without these leaks, all these leaks will do is inflame a volatile situation. Completely irresposible
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