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China and US gang up on N Korea

April 12, 2011


THE strategic rivals China and the US have been secretly sharing intelligence about North Korea.

Leaked records of highly sensitive US-China defence consultations reveal that despite Chinese complaints about US arms sales to Taiwan, and American concerns about a growing Chinese espionage threat, the CIA, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the US Defence Department have held secret talks on North Korea with Chinese military intelligence.

According to US diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks and provided exclusively to the Herald, US-Chinese defence talks held in Beijing in July 2009 included long exchanges about North Korea between the US Under Secretary of Defence for Policy, Michele Flournoy, and top Chinese generals.

The director of the People’s Liberation Army Intelligence Department, Major-General Yang Hui, referred to the “close co-operation” with the US on “matters of intelligence” concerning North Korea and cited a visit by his department to exchange information with the CIA.

Speaking after North Korea’s second nuclear test in May 2009, he said: “North Korea is in an ‘inferior position’ to South Korea based on all measurements of national strength.”

He said domestic political considerations had a significant role in Pyongyang’s decision to conduct a second test. “North Korea had seen 10 years of economic stagnation with only 1 per cent growth in the economy per year, and the ‘satellite launch’ and nuclear test were designed to give ‘coherence and stability’ to the country.”

Ms Flournoy said there would be serious consequences if North Korea increased its nuclear and missile capabilities. “Either North Korea would take irreversible steps to denuclearise, or all concerned would find themselves going down a road no one wants to travel,” she said.

“Further improvements in North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities would cause neighbouring countries to take necessary steps to protect their security.”

Other US diplomatic cables WikiLeaks released last year suggest senior Chinese political figures were increasingly prepared to accept Korean unification and were privately distancing themselves from North Korea.

The Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, He Yafei, reportedly told a US diplomat Pyongyang was behaving like a spoilt child to get Washington’s attention with a ballistic missile test in April 2009.

In February last year South Korea’s then vice-foreign minister Chun Yung-woo told US diplomats that younger Chinese Communist Party leaders no longer regarded North Korea as a useful or reliable ally, and would be reluctant to intervene militarily if the regime collapsed.

Beijing was increasingly “ready to ‘face the new reality’ that [North Korea] now had little value to China as a buffer state”.

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