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  Global Views
Different Hearts of Washington and Beijing toward North Korea
Special Contribution
By Dr. Park Tae-Woo
Kim Il-Sung Shows Great Pottery to Deng Xiaoping— The late North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung (1912-1994) looks into the gigantic porcelain with then Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) listening to him in Pyongyang, North Korea on Sept. 8, 1978 when the Chinese paramount leader visited the North Korean capital. Kim gave the porcelain to Deng as a gift.

Recent high-level bilateral dialogue of the US-China ended without agreement, so far as the sensitive issue of how to deal with North Korea in case North Korea suddenly collapses; this was an expected outcome in terms of their different North Korean approaches to secure national interests.

World has changed so much in that China has emerged in such a short time span as a strong state enough to be recognized by the world as one of the bilateral superpowers along with the United States.

I can not but say a few emotional words on this rapid change when I recall a solemn scene in my mind like a movie scene; when Ding Xiopiang was imminent to death, he summoned key members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

When I teach international politics in Northeast Asia, I have always mentioned this moment of Deng's death. Just before he passed away, he clearly left a meaningful sentence to his key successors of Chinese Communist Party. "Don't confront Washington until our nation will have become as strong as the US in all spheres of world affairs, though we are humiliated either by their words or any actions in international society."

Since that time on, Beijing has rather faithfully sticked to this unofficial diplomatic doctrine. Finally as of now at least superficially they have grown up powerful enough to reject the US serious offer to ponder upon the possible measures to be taken in case someday North Korean regime collapses all of a sudden.

Even a small child could know why China could not agree to this US's offer.

Limiting to the Korean Peninsula reunification issue, the two superpowers has its own different perceptions.

Washington, a typical world model of liberal democracy, clearly hates the brutal, parochial, totalitarian dictatorship of North Korea, and tries to urge North Korea to accept the open door line and gradually transform itself to be a latecomer case of world liberal democracy, ultimately paving the way for the South-North integration under the full banner of liberal democracy, which means another result of Washington's victory in the world history since the end of Cold War structure.

On the other hand, Beijing wants North Korea to remain permanently under the direct influence of their hands, even at the costs of North Korean residents painful living conditions even under the current brutal dictatorship of the Kim's family oppression and mobilization unprecedented in the world history.

How miserable it is to think of many political prisoners' camp existing across the North Korean territory, accommodating more than hundreds of thousands of North Korean citizens by the name of political prisoners!

China can not think of the unified Korea under the direct influence of the US military involvement, cultural domination and liberal capitalism that could threaten socialism with chinese characteristics. This means a new powerful political wave that could be blown into Beijing, like an influenza, to the very hearts of the current CCP powerbase, watching the peoples' demands for more political freedom and institutional political reform toward a multi-political party system, totally breaking away from the current authoritarian one party(CCP) rule.

Thus, it is natural for Washington and Beijing to have different calculations regarding approaches to deal with, and even sanction North Korea's abnormal behaviors such as North Korea's nuclear brinkmanship and to agree to a bilateral combined measures to be taken in case North Korea collapses all of a sudden.

Actually here lies the key to solve the ever worsening North Korea issue of both imminent nuclear problem and to the long term issue of reunification on the Korean Peninsula.

We need more strengthened Korea-US alliance, especially in military dimension to induce or persuade Beijing to turn to the realistic approaches that could possibly change North Korea full of uncertainties and unpredictabilities.

Our government aided by the US, must develop a very realistic persuading diplomatic logic that can induce China to conclude that North Korea under this kind of political regime can never be favorable to China's national interests in the long-term prospects.

China must play more active role to make North Korea abandon all the nuclear programmes and relevant facilities, in consultation with the US and other six-party members.

China could not be the permanent supporter of the North Korea behind the scenes this way.

China had better think of another option to replace the current Kim's family totalitarianism in North Korea with a more moderate, and practical regime. China must open its own eye to look farther well into the future world trend.

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Dr. Park Tae-Woo, visiting professor of National Chengchi University's Dept. of Diplomacy in the Republic of China, serves as special columnist for The Seoul Times. Dr. Park also serves as honorary consul of East Timor in South Korea, and secretary-general of Democratic Pacific Union Korea Chapter. His website can be reached at






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