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September 12, 2008

Chinese future for North Korea?

Topics: China, International News, North Korea

Dear Leader has not attended for the first time the NK National Day Parade. Considering that the Army is the first, the last and everything in between for Kim Il-Jong, his not-attendance of the parade, linked to his bad health (he suffers diabetes and has also ruffered several heart strokes in the past among other illnesses), have made the rumours grow: is Kim already dead or is he so ill he can't even attend to such an important parade?

Pajamas Media, in an article titled Will China Take Over North Korea?, explains why in this context, Chinese movements over North Korea are very suspicious. Firstly,

(Chinese) have recently spurned initiatives from Seoul to talk about what to do in case of instability in the North. The turndown is an indication that Beijing does not believe it will have to implement its plans to send a military force south, establish order, and either annex the DPRK or, more probably, leave behind a compliant government. After all, it has already lined up its supporters in Pyongyang and sees little reason to either share information or let any other nation have access in the case of an emergency.

There is another question though, the sucession of the Dear Leader. Kim il-Jong's legitimacy derives from his father, Kim il-Song, the founder of modern North Koreea. He was prepared for than since his infancy. But that's not the case of his descendants:
None of the three known sons of Kim is considered suitable as a successor. In any event, Dear Leader has not groomed any of them as his dad groomed him over the course of decades. Because the military is the only institution in society that has the ability to accomplish its aims, many assume that one or more general officers will take over when Kim passes the scene. The betting is that a committee of them will end up running North Korea

This possibility makes the Chinese even happier, because they lead China, the country of 1.5 billion people, from a politburo. And a North Korean committee would be much more comfortable and predictable than Kim.

So, the reunification of both Koreas, a common dream to all of those people living south of the Demilitarized Zone, is even farther.

The Foreign Policy Blog wrote precisely about this danger, some months ago, like I wrote here.

But is it true that KIm is ill just now? That is something no one knows: North Korea is not known by it's openness and as WaPo points out:

In recent months, a variety of media outlets have reported that Kim was so weak that he could not walk 30 yards (he later appeared in public and seemed able to walk), that a group of German doctors went to North Korea to perform heart surgery on him (the doctors denied it), and that he passed away (most likely untrue because he's since appeared in public, although at least one veteran expert has suggested the government could be using body doubles).

Lastly, US researchers have discovered that North Korea is building a new launch pad for nuclear missiles. Yes, it's true that they knew that for some time, but the circumstances appear to have changed. North Korea have agreed to destroy its nuclear arsenal and specifically the nuclear site at Yongbyong. But there is no agreement about how to verify the information that North Korea gave to US regarding that particular question, in exchange of what US announced they were going to exclude the country from the list of states patronizing terrorism. But as it's logical, without verification, there are no consequences of that information, and so, North Korea has not been excluded from the list. As a result, it looks like they are re-building the nuclear site at Yongbyong, shut since july 2007.

Something which is also favourable to China: if it supports North Korea in its nuclear ambitions now (even if never does it openly), North Koreans, specially those who are big Beijing's supporters, will return the favour when the time comes.

So as the blog China e-Lobby says, "take note that the saga surrounding his health has been the perfect distraction for more missile construction". Something which does not modify the need to consider the consequences of Kim's death, when that day comes.

This post is a translation of the one I wrote for Desde El Exilio on this same topic.

Posted by Eurabian at September 12, 2008 6:06 AM

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