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The Liberty Times, Taiwan

Will No One Deal with Kim Jong-un?


By Parris Chang

Translated By Nathan Hsu

20 December 2012

Edited by Kyrstie Lane


Taiwan - The Liberty Times - Original Article (Chinese)

On Dec. 12, North Korea launched its "Unha-3" long-range rocket, prompting harsh criticism from the U.S., South Korea and Japan. China and Russia followed soon after, expressing their regret.

Why is Pyongyang bold enough to do as it pleases, all without a hint of concern for the condemnation of its enemies or the advice of its allies? In reality, its primary objective is to test nuclear warhead-carrier ICBM technology capable of threatening the U.S. homeland. From Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il to Kim Jong-un, North Korea's Kim dynasty, as well as its powerful military, have all believed that possessing nuclear weapons is the best guarantee for the state's survival.

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has expressed regret over the North Korean rocket launch amidst widespread concern in the international community. This is not the first time that Pyongyang has rejected the advice of big brother Beijing. At U.S. President Obama's request in March of this year, Hu Jintao urged Pyongyang to cancel its April rocket test launch, but without result. For many years, China has provided North Korea with food, oil and other strategic goods and has been a lifeline for the smaller country; is Beijing really incapable of controlling and pressuring Pyongyang? The truth is not that Beijing cannot, but that it will not.

According to WikiLeaks, China's Foreign Ministry is dissatisfied with the disorder in Pyongyang and believes North Korea to be a burden on China. However, Pyongyang is seemingly secure in the fact that it has a patron, and mistakenly believes that because a stable and secure North Korean system is in line with Chinese interests, Beijing will do its utmost to protect it and maintain the status quo on the Korean peninsula. Indeed, certain PLA strategists believe that North Korea is a crucial strategic buffer for China and a "useful chip against the U.S., Japan, and South Korea."* China's new leader Xi Jinping cannot change past policies and abandon North Korea now, especially with the U.S. encirclement of China in its "return to Asia" and its obvious support for Japan in the dispute over the Diaoyu Islands.

Since 1990, successive U.S. presidents have sought China's cooperation and support and relied on Beijing's influence over Pyongyang to put an end to North Korean nuclear weapons research and "denuclearize" the state, but to no avail. One could argue that Washington outsourcing the tough issue of North Korea's denuclearization to China has failed completely, as the national interests and policy plans of Beijing are vastly different than the U.S. and it is unlikely to "pull America's chestnuts out of the fire."*

In his second term, President Obama must switch directions and introduce a new policy. If Washington does not come up with new ideas but continues to rely on the goodwill of Beijing and walk the beaten path of unending dialogue, a nuclear North Korea may be just around the corner. Now, as Japan's right-wing elements take power once more, the coming days may also see it embrace nuclear weapons for self-protection, hastening the storm already brewing in Asia.

The author was formerly the Deputy Secretary General of Taiwan's National Security Council.

*Editor’s Note: This quote, though accurately translated, could not be verified.



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