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WikiLeaks: China Supports One Korea Controlled By Seoul

Susan Shimotsu |
November 30, 2010 | 2:36 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

(Creative Commons)
(Creative Commons)
Chinese diplomats told US ambassadors that China would support the reunification of the Korean peninsula with the South in control, according to WikiLeaks cables released Tuesday.

China expects the reunification to come within three years after ailing leader Kim Jong-il’s death, although he has already named son Kim Jong-un his successor.

“China hopes for peaceful reunification in the long-term,” Cheng Guoping, Chinese ambassador to Kazakhstan, reportedly told US ambassador Richard Hoagland, according to the cables. “But [he expects] the two countries to remain separate in the short-term." 

In another recorded conversation from February, then-South Korean vice-foreign minister Chun Yung-Woo allegedly told US ambassador Kathleen Stephens that the younger generation of the Chinese Communist Party did not want violence to flare up on the Korean peninsula again. He also suggested a pair of high-ranking Chinese officials believed the Republic of Korea, or the South, should govern all of Korea.

"Citing private conversations during previous sessions of the six-party talks, Chun claimed [the two high-level officials] believed Korea should be unified under ROK control,” Stephens reported on the cables. 

While the leaked cables strongly suggest China is willing to support a reunified Korea, one expert is not convinced of the new information.

“I don’t necessarily accept that this is China’s position,” said Stanley Rosen, professor and director of the East Asian Studies Center at the University of Southern California. “This comes form the US state department not Chinese sources. We don’t know the context of the conversation, if it did indeed happen. All we know is what’s in the State Department’s leaked cable.”

The cables also report Chun, now national security adviser, believes North Korea will collapse within “two to three years” of its leader’s death and that these same young Chinese leaders “would be comfortable with a reunited Korea controlled by Seoul and anchored to the United States in a benign alliance.’’ 

In order for this to happen, China would most likely need assurance before pulling its resources from mineral-rich North Korea, though earlier cables hint at China pulling away from North Korea on its own.

China’s vice-foreign minister He Yafei reportedly told an American diplomat in April 2009 that North Korea was “acting like a spoiled child” by testing missiles to get the US’s attention. Chun also touched on this in the leaked cable, allegedly saying China’s influence in Pyongyang is overestimated by the rest of the world.

However, these cables from February were all recorded before a recent upswing in diplomatic relations between North Korea and China. In light of the leak, North Korea sent Choe Thae Bok, chairman of North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly, to Beijing Tuesday to talk with other Chinese officials.

With violence flaring up again in the peninsula last week when North Korea fired at a South Korean island, the issue of reunification before Kim’s death largely remains to be seen.

Reach reporter Susan Shimotsu  here.

Follow her on Twitter: @susanfromtx.



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