What WikiLeaks Cables Reveal About North Korea

Is China breaking away?

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In examining the U.S. State Department cables released by Wikileaks and their effects, we've explored the biggest revelations so far, what they show regarding Chinese hacking, what they reveal about the Israel-Arab-Iran triangle in the Middle East, what our European allies' newspapers think, and how the Pentagon is responding. But what do the cables show when it comes to North Korea, which is both one of the most problematic and one of the most opaque states in the world?

  • China Willing to Abandon North Korea, Accept Unification?  The Guardian's Simon Tisdall writes of the cables, "China has signalled its readiness to accept Korean reunification and is privately distancing itself from the North Korean regime, according to leaked US embassy cables that reveal senior Beijing figures regard their official ally as a 'spoiled child'. ... Beijing's frustration with Pyongyang has grown since its missile and nuclear tests last year, worries about the economic impact of regional instability, and fears that the death of the dictator, Kim Jong-il, could spark a succession struggle."
  • North Korea Bringing China, U.S. Together  The UK Spectator's David Blackburn writes, "The most important revelation is that China has tired of North Korea’s lunatic machinations, recognising that the rogue state is an impediment to global and regional security. ... This is a crucial geopolitical change and an indication that China’s economic strength will be matched by at least a measure of political maturity. ... Will China’s analysis of the situation change? Certainly not - unless Kim Jung-il breaks the habits of a lifetime. However, China’s sudden diplomatic accord with the United States will definitely lapse."
  • China 'Exhausted' With North Korea, But Not Turning Away  Foreign Policy's Charles Homans emphasizes the cables' "ambiguity," saying that they don't reveal a great split between China and North Korea. "Beijing seems only somewhat less in the dark about what exactly is going on in Pyongyang than North Korea's enemies. ... The North Korean cables are mostly a lot of chatter around the edges of a giant question mark. ... The dominant mood of the Chinese diplomats who appear throughout them is exhaustion -- a sense, plenty familiar in Washington and Seoul, that no one really knows what to do next."
  • World Planning for North Korean Collapse  The New York Times' David Sanger writes of the plans for post-collapse reunification, "If Seoul was destined to control the entire Korean Peninsula for the first time since the end of World War II, China — the powerful ally that keeps the North alive with food and fuel — would have to be placated. So South Korea was already planning to assure Chinese companies that they would have ample commercial opportunities in the mineral-rich northern part of the peninsula. As for the United States, the cable said, 'China would clearly not welcome any U.S. military presence north of the DMZ,' the heavily mined demarcation line that now divides the two Koreas."
  • Cables Embarrass China  In an interview with PBS Newshour, Carter administration national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski said, "There are references to a report by our officials that some Chinese leaders favor a reunified Korea under South Korea. This is clearly designed to embarrass the Chinese and our relationship with them."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.