Thursday, May 6, 2010

Kim Jong Il visits China

Shortly after the failed currency reforms, I last talked about how North Korea was in danger of collapse and wondered what would happen when Kim Jong Il shortly visits China. Well, Kim Jong Il is in China now and this time North Korea apparently blew up a South Korean ship.

There seems to be mounting evidence that North Korea recently blew up a South Korean ship (and no, I don't believe that North Korea blew up the BP oil rig from Cuba for a second). But, what is particularly interesting is what is going on in China and to see what, if anything, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il can extract from China this time.  In particular, it'd be interesting to see:

1)How China addresses the Cheonan incident, if at all. In particular, whether South Korea takes this incident to the UNSC for token sanctions, which would, again, require China to side against North Korea. The last time China did this it cost the Chinese $2.1 billion in aid, a visit by a high ranking Chinese communist official, and the prestige from hosting six-party talks.

And, in particular,
2)What type of additional aid North Korea receives from China, if any -- such as investment.

As it has become clear for a while now that North Korea will not give up its nuclear weapons program, what will China now do? As South Korea and the United States will not provide aid, it puts South Korea in particular at risk of pushing North Korea into China's camp. But, with North Korea allegedly blowing up the South Korean ship, Cheonan, it will be intereseting to see what happens from this point on. I mean it was interesting enough to see that the Chinese President Hu Jintao met with South Korea President Lee Myung Bak just a few days before Kim Jong Il's first visit to China since 2006. But, will China strain relations with South Korea and be seen as a supporter of yet another rogue (I'd itching to use the word "terrorist" here) nation for the sake of stability? A lot has changed for China since 1998 when they last bailed out North Korea -- the country has joined the WTO, hosted the Olympics, and is set to be the second largest economy in the world, if it isn't already. It seems that the trilateral alignment that Scott Snyder mentions in China's Rise and the Two Koreas: Politics, Economics, Security that is necessary to actually coordinate an effective policy might indeed already be underway and that the end of the DPRK might indeed not be that far off.

On a side note, I'd like to clarify so that everyone understands that North Korea was taken off the terrorist list not because the United States believed that North Korea wasn't a state sponsoring terrorism, but that the previous administration did so just to see if, well, let's give them everything they want and see if they'll give up their nukes -- which they didn't. And, the Obama administration is picking up right, where the last administration left off with an approrpiate definition of  the word "engagement."

As for North Korea being a terrorist state, let's see...
state sponsored manufacturing of illicit substances, counterfeit U.S. dollar bills, torture, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction technology (i.e. Syria), ballistic missiles (i.e. Yemen, Iran(Shahab-3)), kidnapping civilians from foreign soil or waters (Japan, South Korea), blowing up foreign airliners (Korean Airlines flight in 1987 to name one), shooting a South Korean civilian (Mount Geumgang), allowing terrorist organizations to take refuge in the country (Japan's Red Army faction back), etc...

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