North Korea, China, and Wikileaks

The New Yorker’s Political Scene Podcast interviews Ryan Lizza, Barbara Demick, and Evan Osnos about the Wikileaks cables as they pertain to North Korea and China. Listen here:

The cables also failed to offer a better understanding of North Korea’s relationship with China, according to Osnos, who has been writing about the WikiLeaks cables on his blog, Letter From China. “What we learned basically from these cables is what we’ve come to know over the last few years, which is that China has a very peculiar relationship with North Korea,” he says, in which China is at once irritated by and grateful for its “erratic neighbor to the east.” China’s overall view on the WikiLeaks documents, Osnos says, is a positive one. “China most of all was rather delighted to see the United States in an uncomfortable situation,” he says.

On his New Yorker blog, Evan Osnos also writes about recent tensions between North and South Korea, and the reasons why North Korea has not been brought before the U.S. Security Council for shelling a South Korean island:

Lest you start to wonder if it’s time to scrap the Security Council and sell it for parts, South Korea has a reason to be hesitant: It has diplomatic post-traumatic stress disorder. It was only eight months ago, after all, that a South Korean warship sank, killing forty-six sailors. A multinational investigation, led by Seoul, blamed a North Korean torpedo, though Pyongyang has maintained it had no role in the incident. In that instance, South Korea referred the case to the Security Council, expecting an open-and-shut denunciation. But it received chilly responses from China and Russia and came home with only “a vaguely worded presidential statement condemning the attack rather than the perpetrator.”

I guess South Korea is right to be gun shy. China has already indicated to other members of the five-nation Security Council that it will not support a response. And, after several days of trying to steer a middle course between cozying up to Pyongyang (which, by all accounts, it finds repellent) or playing into U.S. efforts to squeeze North Korea, China as chosen to stay with the devil it knows. China’s ties with North Korea “have witnessed significant progress this year,” Wu Bangguo, a member of the standing committee of China’s Politburo, said this week, in an oddly timed renewal of vows.


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