North Korea’s New Leader Gives China Cold Shoulder

February 2, 2012 Updated: February 3, 2012

North Korea’s new leader Kim Jong-un recently thanked leaders from a long list of countries for their condolences on his father’s death, yet the list did not include China. This has set off some heated discussions.

South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency quoted a Jan. 28 report by the North’s Central State Television that their new leader had sent letters to several dozen countries, including Russia and Cuba, thanking them for their condolences. Kim also expressed the willingness to improve relationships with those countries. Oddly, the list of recipients did not include China.

The Chinese regime’s Pheonix TV also reported the news and said, “perhaps North Korea will send a private letter through its ambassador to Beijing, or perhaps it has other arrangements.”

Chinese Control

Wen Zhao, a political commentator residing in the United States, disagrees with Phoenix TV’s explanation. “Even if Kim Jong-un made some private or special arrangements with Beijing, he should not have excluded Beijing from the list. He has deliberately ignored China. Given that the Standing Committee members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee have all gone to the North Korean Embassy to offer their condolences, this [Kim Jong-un’s behavior] is very rude, or probably even interpreted as offensive by some people,” Wen told The Epoch Times.

Wen said Phoenix TV is finding an excuse to justify Kim’s action, and Chinese authorities may have been negotiating with North Korea already.

The relationship between Beijing and Pyongyang is not as good as some people may think, Wen said. Some sources say that during the 1990’s North Korean nuclear crisis, because Beijing did not support Pyongyang, the late leader Kim Jong-il felt betrayed.

The Chinese regime also controlled the six-party talks, thereby hindering North Korea from directly communicating with the United States, and Kim Jong-il was not happy about that.

Wen said, “According to Bruce Klingner, a former U.S. think tank member and senior intelligence officer, just before Kim Jong-il died, the six-party talks were about to resume, and the relationship between North Korea and the United States could have made a breakthrough.”

Balance of Power

Some experts have said that Beijing has been playing the North Korea card to challenge the United States.

According to political commentator He Qinglian, North Korea remains an important tool for Beijing to maintain the balance of power in Northeast Asia. “Beijing would definitely want no change to take place in North Korea,” she said in a recent article.

The Tokyo Shimbun said on Jan. 30 that China decided to supply North Korea with 500,000 tons of food and 250,000 tons of crude oil right after Kim’s death.

AFP quoted the Japanese paper as saying, China made the decision to “stabilize” the new regime of Kim Jong-un.

According to Japan’s Asahi Shimbun, Beijing said it could send PLA troops to Pyongyang in two hours should North Korea be in trouble.

However, in a surprising development recently, the Associated Press announced on Jan. 16 that it was opening a branch in North Korea.

“This means that the United States and North Korea are opening up a communication channel, and the two countries may gradually establish direct contact and bypass the middleman, China,” Wen Zhao commented.

Hong Kong’s Oriental Daily said on Jan. 18, it’s possible the relationship between the United States and North Korea could change dramatically in a few years, and they might even establish diplomatic relations in the near future. If that happens, Beijing will be left alone in the sidelines, it said.