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China’s DPRK Quandary


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This presentations explains some U.S. views on China-DPRK relations, some South Korean views on China-DPRK relations, signs of evolution in China’s DPRK policy, signs of continuity of China’s DPRK …

This presentations explains some U.S. views on China-DPRK relations, some South Korean views on China-DPRK relations, signs of evolution in China’s DPRK policy, signs of continuity of China’s DPRK policy. It also looks at the question, is economic reform possible in North Korea? Finally, it shows the factors favouring continuity.

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  • Park’s quote:’s quote:, professor of international relations and director of the programme on US-China relations at Seoul National University. Wrote a book on South Korea’s view on the evolution of PRC-DPRK relations since 1950s. Source of his quote:
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    • 1. China’s DPRK Quandary. Shenyang, China July 19, 2013 Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt Northeast Asia Project Director International Crisis Group
    • 2. • U.S. views on China-DPRK relations • South Korean views on China-DPRK relations • Signs of evolution in China’s DPRK policy • Signs of continuity of China’s DPRK policy • Is economic reform possible in North Korea? • Factors favouring continuity • Conclusions OUTLINE
    • 3. • Sufficient pressure can compel North Korea to abandon its nuclear program • Chinese implementation of robust economic sanctions are a necessary part of the pressure • North Korea has acted against China’s interests and could push China to implement punitive measures U.S. VIEWS
    • 4. U.S. VIEWS “ “ You’re starting to see [Beijing] recalculate and say, ‘You know what? This is starting to get out of hand.” – Barack Obama March 2013 – John Kerry July 2013 “ China is cooperating with us [on North Korea denuclearisation]. China has helped to make a difference.” “
    • 5. “There probably has been a rethinking of Beijing’s approach given how thoroughly the DPRK are undermining their long-term interests.” U.S. VIEWS “ – Jeffrey Bader April 2013 China “will be much more aggressive, much more fed up and much more prepared to treat North Korea differently than in the past.” – Kurt Campbell April 2013 “
    • 6. “The teeth (China) can still suffer without the lips (North Korea).” SOUTH KOREAN VIEWS – President Park Geun-hye May 2013“ “After President Xi Jinping took office in China we were able to see some changes…I believe that China can exert more influence on [North] Korea, I think they can do more.” – Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se July 2013“ – Chung Jae-ho July 2013 “The idea by some scholars that North Korea is becoming a strategic burden to China rather than a buffer is now shared by the Chinese leadership.”
    • 7. • Supported UN Resolution 2094 • Stronger rhetoric o “No country is allowed to throw the region into chaos for self-gains” - Xi Jinping o “No one is allowed to make troubles at China’s doorsteps.” - Wang Yi o Destabilising the Peninsula is to “lift a rock only to drop it on one’s own feet.” - Li Keqiang • BoC closed North Korean FTB account • Ministry of Transportation ordered strict enforcement of UN Resolution 2094 • Optics in bilateral relations: Xi-Obama “shirt-sleeve” meeting and Beijing’s warm reception of Park • Vibrant public debate • Growing sense that DPRK belligerence undermines China’s strategic interests o Regional stability jeopardised o Allowing U.S. to boost its strategic position in the region o Japan and/or South Korea could develop their own nuclear weapons SIGNS OF EVOLUTION?
    • 8. • Bilateral relations have cooled o Kim Jŏng-ŭn started off tepid with China o Kim Jŏng-ŭn not yet visited Beijing o Difficulty in renewing party-to-party strategic talks o Ongoing fishing disputes • Discussion in Beijing about the absolute value of North Korea as a buffer against the US and its allies—in the age of long-range missiles and US naval dominance • Concern for radioactive contamination of air and water in Northeast China • Anger at repeated provocations despite China’s entreaties • Outrage at Chinese fishermen being kidnapped • Displeasure with Kim Jŏng-ŭn’s lack of respect for elder statesman Xi Jinping • Satirical jokes about Kim Jŏng-ŭn abound on Internet (“Fatty Kim” 金三胖) • New push for “normal” state-to-state relations SIGNS OF EVOLUTION?
    • 9. • “China should righteously say ‘no’ to North Korea’s irresponsible behaviour.” – Chen Xiangyang, CICIR April 2013 • “We must adjust our policy towards North Korea.” – Zhang Liangui, Central Party School April 2013 • “We have to tell North Korea loudly: Making China angry no doubt means bad luck to yourself.” – Zhu Feng, Peking University February 2013 • “China has reached a point where it has to cut its losses and cut North Korea loose.” – Shen Dingli, Fudan University February 2013 SIGNS OF EVOLUTION?
    • 10. • China provides food, energy assistance and investment o Cross-border trade continues apace o Pace of construction of Hwanggumpyong joint special economic zone has quickened since December 2012 o Massive cross-border infrastructure projects o Majority of DPRK’s food and energy imports provided by China • In large part due to this robust economic relationship, North Korea’s overall economic situation continues to improve (despite drastic reductions in trade with South Korea since 2008 and the currency reform in 2009). SIGNS OF CONTINUITY – ECONOMIC
    • 11. • Has Kim Jŏng-ŭn shown any personal inclination toward economic reform ? • If so, could he make bold economic reform moves in the current political context in DRPK? • If he thinks so, could he actually deliver the successful economic reform-based growth necessary to compensate for the legitimacy lost by exposing the propaganda? • Would economic reforms require the young leader to abandon the command economy and renounce the same state ideologies and political legacies of his father and grandfather which form the basis of his own legitimacy? What would he use to replace that legitimacy? • What to make of experiments like Rason? “Mosquito net reform” or harbingers of wider North Korean reform and opening? • New “Masikryong Speed” slogan o Stakhanovite-style exhortation towards construction projects, i.e. the Masikyrong ski resort • The new Pyŏngjin line o Simultaneous development of nuclear weapons and the economy ECONOMIC REFORM
    • 12. • Appointment of Pak Pong Ju as Premier o Signifies that DPRK could be invested in long-term economic reform • The Korea Workers’ Party Central Committee reported to have set up a new Department of Economics o Consolidation of all economic matters under one branch; could become “the strongest department in the Party” o Change of responsibility; not liberalisation • Can North Korea reform and keep nuclear weapons? Aren't the two inter- connected? o Reform in what way? More marketisation? Some privatisation? ECONOMIC REFORM
    • 13. • Do Chinese analysts believe economic reform and opening would resolve the NK issue? o Empower NK actors seeking relations with outside world to promote business? • Or, do Chinese policy makers believe economic reform would strengthen the Kim regime by improving economy performance? o Could regime stability due to economic security lead NK to abandon its nuclear weapon? • How does that work within the Pyŏngjin line? o If the Pyŏngjin line succeeds in the context of NK economic reform, does that solve the problem? Whose problem is it anyway? ECONOMIC REFORM
    • 14. • Bilateral relations show signs of recovery o Kim Jŏng-ŭn sent an envoy to Beijing in May o 1st Vice FM Kim Kye Gwan visited Beijing in June o After Kim Kye Gwan’s Beijing visit, MFA stated that tensions had definitively eased. o KJU’s congratulatory message on Xi’s 60th’s birthday: “strengthen and develop DPRK-China friendship for generations to come” o Li Yuanchao to lead a delegation to DPRK for ceasefire anniversary SIGNS OF CONTINUITY - POLITICAL
    • 15. • System characterised by consensus decision-making and bureaucratic inertia • “Traditionalists” still hold sway in the party, military and bureaucracy • Prevalent views in Beijing: o North Korea’s nuclear program is non-negotiable / no amount of pressure can induce Pyongyang to give it up o The amount of pressure required to achieve it would cause destabilisation of the peninsula if not regime collapse • Domestic challenges prioritised over changes in foreign policy • Status quo preferred over uncertainty • Priorities remain “no war, no instability, no nukes” The U.S. Factor o China sees the U.S. as a larger strategic threat than DPRK o Rebalancing deepened China’s suspicion o Beijing sees DPRK mainly as a problem between Pyongyang and Washington FACTORS FAVOURING CONTINUITY
    • 16. • China is less indulgent of North Korea’s provocations • China wants to bring DPRK back to talks, but is averse to applying real pressure to achieve tangible steps towards denuclearisation • Beijing remains committed to both sustaining the country and integrating it more deeply into the Chinese economy • Beijing expects economic interdependence to increase the pressure and likelihood for the DPRK to undertake economic reform, which China sees as the ultimate solution to the entire North Korean issue • Yet, while Chinese policymakers and establishment commentators seem to agree that Beijing can, at most, rebuke North Korea, there are uncomfortable questions about what that entails. • The cost of China’s current policy may be implicitly accepting North Korea as a nuclear state, or tolerating additional destabilising acts by the North, both of which would further imperil China’s priority of regional stability • China’s youth overwhelmingly view DPRK with pity and contempt, and these opinions are likely to alter policy in the longer term • Achieving normal state-to-state relations is a gradual and long-term process CONCLUSION