Observing Chinese Foreign Policy towards the DPRK


Kim Jong Il, General Secretary of the Workers’ Party of the DPRK, made his second visit to China, in strict secrecy, in the middle of January. Since he mainly visited Shanghai, the key city at the front line of the Chinese reform and open policy, the affair attracted the interest of “China watchers” again. At present, Kim Jong Il’s visit to Moscow in April on the Trans-Siberian Railway is in the air. Regarding these affairs, along with President Putin of Russia’s visit to the ROK at the end of February, the competition between China and Russia over the DPRK and the attitude of the DPRK are attracting attention both from concerned parties and others.

There is a tendency among people concerned to regard Kim Jong Il’s second visit to China on the same level as his electrifying visit to China last May (2000). Specifically, Kim Jong Il visited China again because when he witnessed the development of Beijing, he became interested in seeing first hand the further development of Shanghai and Shenzhen. In addition, there are indications that the DPRK, which was urged to reconsider its policies towards the U.S. and the ROK when the Bush Administration took office, has begun to strengthen its relationship with China and will extend its consultations with China on the Economy and Technology Cooperation Treaty between the two countries (which will expire within a year), as well as gaining support from China. In the early part of the opening of the 21st century, the interplay between the countries over the Korean Peninsula and twisted international relationships have hurriedly moved towards readjustment.

In this movement, we have to watch the above-mentioned Chinese behavior carefully. China, in any case, is a “behind-the-scenes” interested party of Korean Peninsula affairs and “It is not the U.S. but China who ensures the safety of the ROK, because China is in the position that it would be the first country to be aware of any moves by the DPRK into the South.” (summary from a statement of a scholar from the ROK) I’m loath to mention this, but the Institute for Northeast Asia Study (INAS), which I conduct, held a workshop entitled “The Formation and Development of Chinese Policy towards the DPRK” recently, to which “Mr. X”, who is wise in this field, was invited and gave a speech. I will summarize the six main points he mentioned as follows;

  1. The basic policy of China towards the Korean Peninsula is to “maintain peace and stability in the peninsula”.
  2. Foreign policy in general was “determined more materialistically than ideologically”.
  3. The policy against the nuclear activities of the DPRK has changed from “a policy to defeat the monopoly of nuclear weapons (by the U.S.)” (in the 1960’s and 1970’s), to “a policy to limit nuclear activities” (“denuclearization” in the peninsula in the 1980’s and 1990’s).
  4. In terms of security policy, China and the DPRK have created an “associate allied relationship”, which will be reconfirmed every twenty years. There is no military presence on the national border.
  5. Policy towards the DPRK has developed, breaking through the “Crescent” league against China (the area including Japan, the ROK, Taiwan and ASEAN) balancing diplomacy between the north and the south and unifying peace.
  6. Support policy towards the DPRK comprises the most important part of the policies towards the peninsula. Total support has been brought about in various fields, including politics, diplomacy, security and the economy. The International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China is the important shadow channel.

I am reminded of “Chinese Foreign Policy” (1999 edition), which referred to the “credibility of the big power” of the nation for the first time, especially pointing out the issue of the Korean Peninsula as a specific example. In the same white paper of the 2000 edition, expressions went further, such as “the nation takes the role of a responsible big power”. We have to fix our eyes on the future in terms of how such Chinese changes in self-knowledge project on Northeast Asia as a whole.

[Translated by ERINA]