China remains faithful to North: China expert

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China remains faithful to North: China expert

China finds North Korea increasingly pesky, but there’s no likelihood it will change its policy toward it as long as Kim Jong-il is in power, a Chinese expert said yesterday.

“Personally, I don’t argue that Beijing will make any big change in its North Korea policy as long as Kim Jong-il remains breathing,” said Zhu Feng, a professor and North Korean affairs specialist at the School of International Studies at Peking University in a Seoul seminar.

Zhu’s analysis, presented at a seminar hosted by the Korea Research Institute for Strategy, came after the United Nations Security Council issued a statement Friday condemning “those responsible” for the fatal Cheonan attack. The statement did not blame North Korea for the attack on the warship on March 26, which killed 46 South Korean sailors.

“Obviously, China’s open condemnation of the DPRK [North Korea] for sinking the warship Cheonan would be a remarkable sign of its abandonment of Pyongyang as a longtime ‘socialist’ ally,” Zhu said. “Its refusal to do this explicitly indicates that Beijing isn’t ready yet to give up on the North.”

The professor said North Korea has tarnished China’s international image and reputation, and the country has incurred a heavy economic burden giving aid over the past decades. But, he said, China still needs to be partners with the Kim Jong-il regime because stability on the Korean Peninsula and nuclear disarmament of the North, which he calls China’s two major concerns, can be best assured with Kim in power.

Zhu said South Korea and China need to see beyond the Cheonan and cooperate on preparations for a post-Kim era. The North’s ongoing economic difficulties will speed the collapse of the incumbent regime, he said.

“It we draw an analogy, we could say the limbs and capillaries of North Korea are now frozen, while the heart and aorta are still beating and running,” he said. “It is definitely true that stagnant trade and high inflation in North Korea will accelerate the process of its collapse, if its collapse is an irresistible and inevitable result.”

At the seminar, Ralph Cossa, president of Pacific Forum CSIS, a U.S.-based foreign policy research institute, said China is increasingly being seen as part of the problem rather than part of the solution when it comes to dealing with Pyongyang. He suggested a four-party dialogue among the U.S., Japan, China and South Korea to draw better cooperation from China on Korean issues.


By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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