The delicate alliance of Pyongyang and Beijing
By Paul Lin 林保華
Taipei Times 2017.5.11

The only way to convince North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to temporarily stop nuclear testing would be to stop providing oil, which China supplies.

However, Kim is not giving in to Chinese pressure, and as Russia seems to want to gain influence on the Korean Peninsula, he has grown bolder — North Korea’s state-owned news agency has for the first time directly criticized China, saying that their relationship is being destroyed and warning that it could lead to serious consequences.

The article ridiculed Beijing for kowtowing to the US, only to see the US deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense in South Korea.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a restrained response, but the WeChat account of the overseas edition of the People’s Daily said: “If Kim Il-sung had not tried to unite the Korean Peninsula, it would not have descended into war. China was dragged into that war, sacrificing hundreds of thousands of lives, setting off two decades of confrontation between China and the US, and postponing the handling of the cross-strait issue until today. China absorbed most of the cost of North Korea’s reckless and rash actions.”

This was the first time that the Chinese government has said that the Korean War was started by the North. The comment was quickly removed, which shows that Beijing does not want a break with North Korea, as it still has compromising information on China. The release of such information would be even more devastating than the North’s nuclear tests.

About 40 years ago, when the North was perhaps even more of a pariah, China tacitly allowed it to use Macau as an espionage center and was directly or indirectly involved in the kidnapping of South Korean actress Choi Eun-hee and her director husband, Shin Sang-ok, in Hong Kong in 1978.

Other compromising information includes the bombing on Oct. 9, 1983 in what was then Rangoon, when North Korean agents tried to assassinate then-South Korean president Chun Doo-hwan, and the bombing of Korean Air Flight 858 on Nov. 29, 1987, as well as the printing of counterfeit US currency.

Kim Hyon-hui, one of the North Korean agents responsible for the plane bombing, was trained in China. If such information were made public, China could no longer hide its connections to terrorism.

It was clever of US President Donald Trump to flatter Kim Jong-un when he said he would be honored to meet him. Trump stunned not only his officials, he also scared China into thinking that North Korea might move closer to the US.

Reports that the CIA and South Korea tried to assassinate Kim Jong-un using a “biochemical substance” on April 15 was promptly circulated. One detail, that a South Korean spy met with the assassin in China, implies that this piece of “intelligence” is connected to China.

The information angered Kim Kim Jong-un, and North Korean media immediately denounced the US and South Korea for being the source of all evil in the world.

Trump’s attempt to become friendlier with Kim Jong-un was thus blocked by China.

Beijing’s fear that a war would bring huge numbers of North Korean refugees to China is a lie. The first choice for North Koreans would be South Korea. China’s People’s Liberation Army killed hundreds of thousands of starving compatriots during the 1948 Siege of Changchun, so how could it fail to stop North Korean refugees from entering China?

The China and North Korea alliance is likely to continue. China is also likely to enlist Russia’s help to oppose the US. Even if China were to stop exporting oil to North Korea, it could pay Russia to do so.

Paul Lin is a political commentator.

Translated by Perry Svensson

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