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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
09BEIJING254 2009-02-03 09:29:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Beijing
Cable title:  

CHINESE ACADEMICS COMMENT ON KOREAN PENINSULA

Tags:   PREL PGOV KN CH KS 
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FM AMEMBASSY BEIJING
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2058
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIJING 000254 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/03/2034
TAGS: PREL PGOV KN CH KS
SUBJECT: CHINESE ACADEMICS COMMENT ON KOREAN PENINSULA
ISSUES, PREDICT DPRK PROVOCATION

Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Aubrey Carlson. Reasons
1.
4 (b/d).

Summary


--------------------------





1. (C) In conversations with PolOff preceding recent
international media reports of increasingly fiery DPRK
rhetoric, Chinese scholars predicted that North Korea would
seek to manufacture a crisis in order to gain the attention
of the new U.S. administration. In view of the disappointing
conclusion to the December Six-Party Talks meeting, one
academic suggested, it might be time to have a "new
discussion" on how to achieve stability on the Korean
Peninsula. In view of concerns that a reunified Korean
Peninsula would mean the loss of a buffer zone between U.S.
troops and the Chinese border, one scholar suggested joint
Sino-U.S. military exchanges could ease Chinese concerns
about U.S. military objectives in the region. Positive
Sino-DPRK ties, a contact alleged, help China maintain
stability on its border and increase its influence over the
future of the Korean Peninsula. One academic maintained
there is "insufficient consensus" among the Chinese elite on
how to manage the issue of North Korea, but concluded that
PRC policy has become more strategic and less reactive in
recent years. End Summary.

DPRK Could Provoke Crisis Soon


--------------------------





2. (C) In conversations with PolOff that preceded recent
international media reports of increasingly hostile DPRK
rhetoric (directed particularly at South Korea) and a
possible missile test, two Chinese academics predicted that
North Korea would issue provocative statements or seek to
manufacture a crisis in order to gain the attention of the
new U.S. Administration. Beijing University International
Relations Professor Zha Daojiong half-joked to PolOff that
the DPRK might "engineer another hibernation of its leader"
and advised the United States not to "take the bait." The
State Council's Institute of World Development (IWD)
Secretary General Bian Xiaochun told us that North Korea
understood that it is not the "number one foreign policy
issue" in the world and believes that it "only has leverage
when there is a crisis." The Six Parties needed to enhance
coordination and "act carefully" when dealing with North
Korea. "If you treat North Korea as a nuclear power, then it
behaves as a nuclear power," said Bian. She suggested
focusing on helping North Korea become a more "normal"
country with a self-sufficient economy.

Recommending a New Approach to the DPRK


--------------------------





3. (C) While praising the Six-Party Talks as having been
"useful," Professor Zha said the disappointing conclusion of
the Six-Party Talks Heads of Delegation meeting in December
raised the question of the Talks' continued efficacy and
purpose. While North Korea's nuclear weapons program was an
"irritant," it was ultimately a "low-risk threat," Zha
assessed. The Six-Party Talks helped promote a sense of
confidence and cooperation in resolving the nuclear issue,
but did not help contain North Korea, said Zha.



4. (C) IWD Secretary General Bian expressed similar
frustration regarding the December Six-Party Talks meeting,
saying that North Korea "led us by the nose." Bian wondered
whether it might be time to have a "new discussion" on how
best to achieve stability on the Korean Peninsula. Bian went
further than our other contacts, even suggesting that Chinese
and U.S. officials ask the fundamental question, "Could the
United States and China live with the reality of a nuclear
North Korea?" Bian said she believed that "China could
accept a new approach to the DPRK nuclear issue "if the
United States could." She was adamant, however, that North
Korea would have to adopt a "no first use" nuclear policy as
a precondition to a new approach. She also suggested that
China and the United States discuss creating a mechanism to
control the movement of nuclear materials and equipment to
the DPRK.

Easing Concerns about Loss of a Buffer State


--------------------------





5. (C) Given the common Chinese view that North Korea acts as
a buffer between the Chinese border and U.S. troops based in

BEIJING 00000254 002 OF 002


South Korea, Zha suggested that China and the United States
hold joint military exchanges, conduct joint search and
rescue exercises and establish a more permanent
military-to-military relationship to address Chinese concerns
about U.S. military objectives in the region. Such
cooperation could signal to North Koreans and "hard-liners in
China" that China "can work with the Americans," said Zha.

The Importance of Sino-DPRK Ties


--------------------------





6. (C) China was careful to maintain a positive relationship
with the DPRK, according to Renmin University Professor Shi
Yinhong. China was concerned that an economic collapse in
North Korea might lead to a refugee and security crisis on
China's border. Although China from time to time condemned
its neighbor for "bad" behavior, noted Shi, it would continue
to provide oil and humanitarian assistance in order to
maintain stability in China's northeast. Also, China was
laying a foundation for its future role in the region, said
Shi. Positive Sino-DPRK ties would help China steadily
increase its influence over the future of the Korean
Peninsula. "Sooner or later, China will be the greatest
external power over the Korean Peninsula," asserted Shi.

A More Strategic Approach


--------------------------





7. (C) Separately, Professor Zha speculated to PolOff that
there was "insufficient consensus" among the Chinese elite on
how to manage the issue of North Korea. He believed that
Chinese leaders had been frustrated with a reactive North
Korea policy formulated by a group of advisors narrowly
focused on Korean issues. However, since 2006, when Liu
Xiaoming was appointed the PRC Ambassador to Pyongyang,
China's policy toward North Korea had steadily moved toward a
more strategic approach, according to Zha. Previous
Ambassadors to Pyongyang spoke Korean and were experts on
Korean Peninsula issues, but the appointment of Liu, an
expert on the United States and a fluent English speaker,
indicated a change in policy, he said.

Comment


--------------------------





8. (C) The interlocutors cited above are all mainstream DPRK
watchers in Chinese academia, but we have no information to
suggest they are privy to the innermost discussions among
Chinese officials working directly on the North Korea nuclear
issue. Like almost all of our contacts, they praise the
U.S.-China collaboration demonstrated in the Six-Party Talks
but share a frustration with DPRK unwillingness to move
forward in the Talks. We have heard nothing from our MFA
counterparts to suggest they would agree with Bian that we
explore accepting the DPRK as a nuclear state.
PICCUTA