North Korea Relations More Complex Than Ever

Amidst speculation earlier this year over whether China is finally growing frustrated with their longtime ally North Korea, Cary Huang at South China Morning Post explains that regional diplomacy in the area is a complex affair in which different actors and interest groups, most noticeably the liaison office of the Communist Party and the PLA, influence China’s foreign policy towards its Communist neighbor:

“What I can say is that the policymaking towards is far more complicated and complex than any other area of foreign affairs,” said a Chinese diplomat.

Discussions on North Korea can begin with the foreign ministry, but then go to the Communist Party, the People’s Liberation Army and the party’s foreign, security and ideological establishments, with the party Central Committee’s International Liaison Department (ILD) acting as a mediator.

“As the main facilitator of China’s relations with North Korea, the liaison office plays a central role in North Korean policymaking. The foreign ministry is an implementer of China’s policy towards North Korea,” said the diplomat.

[…] This multiplicity of actors is a feature of Chinese foreign policy towards North Korea, says Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt, a North Korean affairs expert and Northeast Asia project director and China adviser with the International Crisis Group.

[…] “Policy towards North Korea is not made in, nor led by, the foreign ministry … Instead, this relationship is made, managed and protected by the liaison office of the Communist Party and by the PLA,” said Cha, a former US diplomat involved in the six-party talks between China, the United States, Russia, Japan and North and South Korea on ending the North’s nuclear arms programme. [Source]

For more on China’s relationship with North Korea, see prior CDT coverage.