North, China trade tips on democracy protests

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North, China trade tips on democracy protests

Meng Jianzhu, China’s minister of public security, made a trip this month to North Korea to discuss ways to prevent the wave of democracy protests in the Middle East from spreading to China and North Korea, according to several South Korean sources.

North Korea’s official news agency reported on Feb. 15 that Meng had been received by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il the day before. The visit was initially seen as an endorsement of the plan for Kim Jong-un to succeed his father Kim Jong-il as the country’s leader, as the report said that Meng “offered his congratulations” on North Korea’s succession process.

However, the visit apparently had another motive, as a high-ranking government source in Seoul said Meng discussed with Kim Jong-il ways to prevent public protests based on information gathered on the tumult in Tunisia and Egypt .

“North Korea and China had a common understanding as they have been nervous that the demands for democracy from the Middle East could spread,” said the source. “They are likely to have discussed means to prevent a mobile revolution from happening in North Korea by using Chinese technology to trace phone calls made by North Koreans who communicate with the world.”

China has been trying to ward off any possibility of an uprising by intensifying its Internet censoring after the protests in Egypt led to the downfall of its dictator. Chinese media criticized the protests.

There were calls for protests Sunday in 13 Chinese cities on an online forum, but very few people showed up and police dispersed them.

North Korea has kept silent on the protests, with no media reports on the situation in the Middle East. It has supported China’s decision to censor the Internet and recently reported in official media on the “evils of the smartphone.”

Another diplomatic source said that Meng had also discussed the increasing flow of drugs into China from North Korea.

“A strong demand was probably made to Pyongyang to prevent the export of drugs into China, as a great portion of the drugs dealt in China is North Korean,” the source said. The source also said that North Korea is a “heaven for drug manufacturing,” with drugs and counterfeit cigarettes bringing foreign exchange into the country. Most of the drugs that are manufactured in North Korea are then sold in China, which provides a vast market.

Meanwhile, the U.S.-funded radio station Radio Free Asia (RFA) said yesterday that resistance against the government in North Korea is growing.

It quoted a North Korean resident in Chongjin, North Hamgyong Province, saying that an unidentified group of assailants stoned the city’s former inspection chief to death early this month. The ex-inspection chief was notorious for sending dozens of North Korean residents to prison while serving as Chongjin’s inspection chief and an investigator for 14 years, RFA said.

RFA said that an increasing level of food thefts and antigovernment acts are being reported.

On Feb. 14, two days before the 69th birthday of leader Kim Jong-il, dozens of residents were reported to have gathered simultaneously to demand electricity and rice in Jongju, Ryongchon and Sunchon, RFA said.


By Kang Chan-ho, Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]


Related Korean Article[중앙일보]
저 혁명에…중국 멍젠주 평양 달려갔다


중국 국무위원인 멍젠주(孟建柱·맹건주) 공안부장이 지난 13~15일 평양 방문 때 북측과 튀니지·이집트를 비롯한 아랍권의 민주화 바람을 막기 위한 정보 공유·협력 강화 문제를 협의했다고 외교 소식통이 22일 전했다. 중국 공안부장은 치안총수로 장관급이나 멍 부장은 부총리급인 국무위원을 겸하고 있다. 그의 방북은 무바라크 이집트 대통령의 하야 이틀 만에 이뤄졌다.

소식통은 “멍 공안부장은 튀니지·이집트와 중동 전역의 중국 정보기관망을 통해 입수한 정보를 북측과 공유하면서 ▶튀니지·이집트의 붕괴 배경 ▶북한에서 반정부 시위가 발생할 가능성을 막는 방안 등을 논의한 것으로 안다”고 전했다.

소식통은 “중동 민주화 바람이 밀려올 가능성을 불안해하는 북한이 멍 부장 등 중국 공안당국으로부터 체제 유지에 필요한 정보를 공급받은 셈”이라고 전했다.  

이어 “중국 공안당국은 최근 한국의 탈북자 방송매체에 북한의 실상을 전해주는 북한 내 정보원들의 휴대전화 통화내역을 추적하는 기술을 북한 공안당국에 전수해줬다고 한다”고 설명했다. 북한은 이에 따라 공안당국을 동원해 ▶실시간 도청 및 감청 ▶휴대전화 단속 강화 ▶‘황색바람(자본주의)’ 경계 캠페인 등으로 시위 가능성 차단에 나선 것으로 안다고 소식통은 전했다. 북한은 지난달부터 외국인 방문객에 대한 휴대전화 대여를 중단한 것으로 파악됐다.

소식통은 또 “멍 부장이 14일 김정일 국방위원장을 만난 자리에서 김정은 후계체제를 지지하는 발언을 한 것(본지 16일자 8면)도 우려되는 신호”라며 “이 발언에 힘을 얻은 북한이 공안 통치를 강화할 것으로 예견돼 한·미 등 정보기관이 멍 부장의 방북 내용에 주목하고 있다”고 말했다.


다른 외교 소식통은 “멍 부장은 북한산 마약이 중국에 밀수되는 것을 막아달라고 북한 당국에 강력히 요구한 것으로 안다”고 말했다. 그는 “북한에선 위조 담배와 마약이 국가 수입의 상당 부분을 차지한다”며 “중국에서 소비되는 마약 상당수가 북한산이어서 중국의 불만이 많다”고 말했다.

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