Wednesday, June 1, 2011

North Korea-China Ties Sealed in Blood

Many interpretations have been made of North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-il's May 20-26 railway tour of China, his third such visit in 13 months and his seventh in the 21st century. Kim made the week-long, unofficial visit at the invitation of Chinese President Hu Jintao, who is also general secretary of the Central Committee of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC).

As the Sydney Morning Herald May 30 grudgingly reported, China extended unprecedented red-carpet treatment to the visiting North Korean leader. Such a level of welcome has never been extended to any visiting American president or other foreign leaders. "EIGHT of China's top nine leaders turned out last week to meet the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, as he toured the country for the third time in 13 months, in a special armored train. "Chinese leaders justify such red-carpet treatment - unheard of for leaders from any other country - because the two socialist nations have always been 'as close as lips and teeth'."

Kim Jong-il separately met and had talks with Hu Jintao, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and other senior CPC leaders including Li Changchun, Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, He Guoqiang and Zhou Yongkang, reported The Korean Central News Agency. The Chinese leadership's treatment of Kim Jong-il is an indisputable sign that China recognizes four key facts.

The first is the critical role the late Kim Il-sung and his associates played in the liberation of northeast China and the founding of the People's Republic of China. No other country offered help or support to the Chinese freedom fighters led by Mao Zedong in the Chinese civil war against the US-funded and armed nationalist Chiang Kai-shek. The week-long visit is especially significant because it provides the Chinese people and the world with a good opportunity to recall the immortal contribution Kim Il-sung and his associates made toward the victory of the Chinese revolution that paved the way for the 1949 birth of the People's Republic of China.

On August 10, 1945, five days before he completed the liberation of Korea from Japan, Kim Il-sung took military steps to assist Mao Zedong and his Chinese freedom fighters in the Chinese war for the liberation of the northeast region. He sent more than 250,000 Korean combat troops to the Chinese front and enough weapons to equip one million Chinese troops at the request of China's founding father. Kim Il-sung permitted the freedom fighters of Mao Zedong to pass through North Korea to strike the rear and flank of Chiang Kai-shek's forces in northeast China. A Korean artillery unit advanced as far as Hainan Island (liberated April 30, 1950) in the South China Sea.

Kim's train journey in May, covering more than a total of 6,000 kilometers through China in full view of the world, took North Korea's top leader on a sentimental journey that retraced key places in which the Korean troops fought shoulder to shoulder with Chinese counterparts in the Chinese War of Liberation: first to northeastern China, then to Nanjing in eastern China and finally to Beijing, capital of the People's Republic.

The second reason for China's welcome is Kim Jong-il's stature as one of the world's most seasoned practitioners of the art of war. He is the most renowned of the peerless national heroes produced in Korea's 5,000 years of history and the most respected and beloved of the ever-victorious, iron-willed commanders.

Writing in the Korea Herald August 14, 2005, Anne Wu, fellow at Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Relations, observes: "Kim Jong-il is a veteran practitioner of The Art of War . He masters the essence of 'bringing the enemy to the field of battle, not being brought there by him' by seizing the initiative of the talks and leading others to his agenda. As long as Pyongyang remained resistant, others had to wait, adjust, and finally sweeten their offers. "Kim also grasps well the principle of 'using the extraordinary to win'.
Unpredictability provides Kim an upper hand in taking advantage of the consistent patterns of the other parties and playing with their inherent differences."

Michael Dobbs wrote in a December 2002 article in the Washington Post on the North's reopening of a nuclear facility: "US officials note that North Korea's action has been condemned by most of its neighbors and potential big-power patrons, such as China and Russia, Japan and South Korea. Such logic is unconvincing to many experts on North Korea. They contend that Kim is trying to set up a situation in which he wins, whatever happens."

Six years later, in April 2008, the same daily succinctly described America's repeated cave-ins to North Korea in an article "Yielding to North Korea Too Often". It was an op-ed co-authored by former US ambassador to China Winston Lord and Leslie H Gelb, president emeritus and board senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Before the present Barack Obama administration, seven US administrations directly dealt with North Korea. Of them, five found themselves close to war with and two quietly dealt with Pyongyang. The most striking fact of the five near-war crises that the DPRK has faced is that it single-handedly kept the nuclear-armed US at bay. No military attack was launched on North Korea. Of the five administrations, only George W Bush brought the matter before the UN Security Council.

Shared past, shared interests

The third reason for China's welcome is the degree of strategic importance Beijing attaches to the traditional close ties of friendship and solidarity with an adjacent, fellow member of the nuclear and space power elites. The North is also just one year away from joining a third elite, that of thriving nations. The two adjoining nuclear powers have common experiences, having jointly fought for national liberation first from Japanese imperialism and then US imperialism in the Korean War. The countries also have shared ideologies - in a commitment to socialism, and have common historical and cultural traditions such as the lunar new year days and other holidays.

There is also no overestimating the importance of North Korea in the development of landlocked northeast China as its next locomotive in terms of access to the outside world. President Hu said in a speech given on May 26 in honor of the North Korean leader: "Comrade General Secretary Kim Jong-il and I exchanged views over issues of common concern in a profound way and reached an important agreement. "We have shared the same views with each other as regards steadily promoting mutual strategic understanding through visits of high-ranking officials, intensifying exchange of experience in party and state building, expanding reciprocal cooperation, invigorating exchange in culture, education, sports and other fields and exchange of views over the international and regional situation and other major issues and taking a joint action.

"The Chinese party and government have consistently maintained and propelled the Sino-DPRK friendship and cooperation in a far-sighted way and on a strategic level.

It is our unshakable policy to consolidate and develop the traditional friendship. "We, together with the Korean comrades, will steadily develop the bilateral friendship and cooperation in the spirit of inheriting tradition, facing up to the future, building good neighborly friendship and strengthening cooperation. In this way, we will work hard to accelerate socialist construction in the two countries, promote interests common to the two sides and defend and promote the peace, stability and prosperity of the region."

A lasting friendship

The fourth explanation for China's red-carpet treatment is the perception of North Korea as a far more dependable friend than other nations. True, the Chinese may form a marriage of convenience with any other country of their choice, but they have only Kim Jong-il and his heir designate Kim Jong-eun to turn to for lasting friendship. That explains why Premier Wen said during an October 2009 visit to Pyongyang, "No matter what changes take place in the international situation, the Sino-DPRK relations will go on advancing." Nearly two months later, visiting Chinese Defense Minister Colonel General Liang Guanglie, said in the North Korean capital, "The Sino-DPRK relationship, sealed in blood, will last forever." Such strategic Chinese approach was well illustrated when Zhou Yongkang, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China, presented Kim Jong-eun with an engraved plate that showed former Chinese leader Mao Zedong and North Korean founder Kim Il-sung smiling during a meeting. Zhou was in Pyongyang leading a delegation to the 65th anniversary of the North Korean Workers Party in October 2010.

Kim Jong-il's visit has further cemented traditional DPRK-China bonds of friendship and solidarity as those between real equals, far from those between false equals, such as ties between the US and its junior allies. The Korean Central News Agency on May 26 quoted Hu as saying, "Kim Jong-il's visit to China is of particularly weighty importance in developing the traditional friendly and cooperative relations between the two countries on a higher stage." In other words, Kim Jong-il and the Chinese hosts have agreed to pass to the next generation the strong bilateral relations of friendship and cooperation first fostered by the late Kim Il-sung and the late Mao Zedong.

There is no greater contribution to the peace, security and prosperity of East Asia, where the US, Japan and South Korea adamantly refuse to end the anachronistic Cold War state of confrontation with a nuclear-armed North Korea, raising the specter of nuclear war. The US is also seeking every opportunity to destabilize China as evidenced by the 1989 Tiananmen incident, the Liu Xiaobo affair and the US deploying its nuclear carrier groups to the Yellow Sea within effective range of Beijing and coastal areas.

A closer bond of friendship and solidarity that bands together two nuclear weapons states goes a long way to keeping the peace in East Asia. The enhanced ties coincide with two major developments in the global balance of power. One is an International Monetary Fund forecast that China will become the world's number one economy in 2016, downgrading the war-weary and reluctant US into a humiliating second place.

Leaderless Japan finds itself reeling from the poorly managed nuclear power disaster, while South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak and his administration are shivering in their shoes at disquieting signs of their lame-duck syndrome given their successive election defeats at the hands of disgruntled South Korean voters.

The other is a growing strong likelihood that a 2006 Citigroup prediction of North Korea becoming the next Asian tiger will come true in 2012. North Korea's successful and self-reliant bid to join the world's third elite club, one of thriving nations, will demonstrate once again for all to see that the US policy of hostility has only benefited Kim Jong-il, prompting his heroic people to rally him under the banner of his songun policy of putting the military first.

American efforts to criminalize, sanction, and isolate the tiny Land of Morning Calm and keep it poor and hungry, have only driven Kim Jong-il and his resourceful people to build a thriving nation that is also an impregnable fortress-state. Bristling with thermonuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles, the North has every strategic target in the metropolitan US within their effective range.

By Kim Myong Chol author of a number of books and papers in Korean, Japanese and English on North Korea, including Kim Jong-il's Strategy for Reunification. He has a PhD from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's Academy of Social Sciences and is often called an "unofficial" spokesman of Kim Jong-il and North Korea. Asia Times

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