China is distancing itself from ally North Korea and has indicated a willingness to accept Korean unification under the South’s control, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable provided to the Guardian by WikiLeaks.org.
South Korea’s then-vice foreign minister, Chun Yung Woo, told U.S. Ambassador Kathleen Stephens in February that young Chinese Communist party leaders don’t think North Korea is a reliable ally, according to a Feb. 22 cable posted on WikiLeaks. Chun also said two unidentified Chinese officials told him they believed Korea should be unified under the South.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday said the Obama administration “strongly condemns” the unauthorized release of more than 250,000 diplomatic documents that WikiLeaks began posting two days ago. State Department spokeswoman Nicole Thompson said she “can’t provide veracity of anything WikiLeaks has released to the media,” adding the agency’s policy is to refrain from commenting on specific leaked materials.
China’s Foreign Ministry didn’t have an immediate response to a faxed question about the cables. South Korea’s foreign ministry spokesman Kim Young Sun said it would be “inappropriate to comment on other countries’ diplomatic documents.”
“If it is true that details of diplomatic discussions have been leaked, it is regrettable,” Kim said.
The U.S. is pressing China to censure North Korea for its Nov. 23 shelling of a South Korean island that killed four people. China has avoided blaming its ally of 60 years, instead criticizing joint naval exercises by South Korea and the U.S. in the Yellow Sea that began on Nov. 28.
Chun, who is currently South Korea’s national security adviser, told Stephens that China “has much less influence than most people believe” over Kim Jong Il’s regime, according to the Feb. 22 cable cited in the Guardian, a U.K. newspaper.
A separate message from Beijing said China’s vice-foreign minister He Yafei in April 2009 told an American diplomat that North Korea’s missile tests were designed to get the attention of the U.S. and that the government in Pyongyang was acting “like a spoiled child.” Two months later, U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan Richard Hoagland sent a cable saying his Chinese counterpart, Cheng Guoping, told him North Korea was a “threat to the whole world’s security,” the Guardian said.
The cables all predate a surge in diplomatic activity between China and North Korea this year.
Kim made an unprecedented two visits to China this year, meeting with President Hu Jintao on both occasions. In October, Zhou Yongkang, a member of China’s ruling Politburo Standing Committee, stood next to Kim during a Pyongyang military parade. Later that month, top Chinese general Guo Boxiong visited North Korea, marking the two countries’ “victory” over “imperialist” U.S.-led forces during the 1950-53 Korean war.
China also refrained from criticizing or blaming North Korea over the March sinking of a South Korean warship. An international panel found evidence that a North Korean torpedo was responsible for the sinking, which killed 46 sailors.
Choe Thae Bok, chairman of North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly, arrived in Beijing today, Yonhap News Agency reported. He is scheduled to to have a "friendly" five-day visit, Xinhua News Agency said earlier.
WikiLeaks.org, a nonprofit group that releases information the governments and businesses want to keep confidential, has over the past two days posted on its website what it says are secret, confidential or in some cases unclassified U.S. embassy cables.
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