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Former diplomat: China has just about had it with North Korea

June 6th, 2013
10:24 AM ET

By Samuel Burke, CNN

China has long been North Korea’s strongest ally, but the alliance might be based on nothing more than nostalgia.

That’s according to Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell.

In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday, Campbell said that North Korea will be at the top of the agenda for U.S. President Barack Obama’s upcoming meeting with China's new President Xi Jinping, along with the issue of cyber security.

Campbell thinks Obama might have success on both fronts, not because of “great goodwill” between the U.S. and China, but mainly because he sees China “poorly positioned” on both fronts.

“People sometimes believe that there's a warm, flourishing relationship between North Korea and China,” Campbell said. “I don't think that's the case. In fact, I think the relationship is based more on a nostalgia for the Korean War and the long association of political parties.” 

Campbell believes it’s in China to readjust its positions.

“They need to stop their indiscriminate attacks against businesses and the U.S. government,” he said. “On North Korea, they've got to take a much tougher in with respect to the misbehavior and the provocations on Pyongyang's part.
More than anything else, China wants stability in the Korean Peninsula, Campbell believes.

“They'd like denuclearization. But what they are very aware of is that this new leadership that North Korea is provocative and dangerous to their own strategic interests,” he said. “Underneath it, a lot of distrust, a lot of anxiety, and I think the Chinese have just about had it with North Korea. They recognize that the steps that they have taken, nuclear, provocations, are creating the context for more military activities on the part of the United States and other countries that ultimately are not in China's best strategic interests.

In the video above you can watch Amanpour’s full interview with Campbell and his insight into the historic meeting between Presidents Obama and Xi.

Filed under:  China • Christiane Amanpour • Latest Episode • North Korea
soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. H. B.

    What's surprising is that it is taking this long for China to wise up to the cobra under their blankets.

    It's obvious to anyone that NK's belligerence toward SK and the US would switch to China, or include China, if the Fat boy felt there was some benefit to doing so. He doesn't, because he needs China too much. It is the sense of security he gets from having China at his back that fuels most of his belligerence. Take it away, and...

    But China needs NK, too, because it believes NK is a buffer zone between itself and the free world, which China fears will gradually infuse China's people with "wrong" political views. I think their need of this "buffer" is entirely unwarranted, as well as paranoid. The free world wouldn't launch an invasion of China, merely because NK was no longer in the equation. Russia needs no buffers like NK, and the free world isn't being a gargoyle, trying to do Russia in.

    Any nation which tries to throttle the Internet – and thus free expression – has some cans of worms to hide; usually BIG ones. It is almost a measure of the degree of tyranny in a country, based on how hard it works to control the Internet access of its people. China is bad, but by far not nearly the worst. I think Iran can grab that particular brass ring.

    The thing is, once people have a taste of the free expression of the Internet, they get unreasonable when it's taken away. Sometimes VERY unreasonable.

    Can't blame them, can you?

    Of course, NK doesn't have to deal with that problem. It keeps its public so poor that only the rich ones (those on Fat boy's side) can even hope to afford a PC or cell phone. Fat boy's methods are simplicity itself. People can't miss what they never had.

    I think China should easily be able to deal with the world in an honest and forthright basis. It's hard to understand why they prefer sneaky stuff. They want more fuel for their power – why must they try to sneak around and wazoo people into giving it? Why can't they begin their own innovations, rather than trying to steal technology from the U.S.? They've got gobs of brilliant techs. If they began to be more forthright and open about things, they'd gain a lot of respect – a lot more than they have right now – and it wouldn't hurt them, either. On the contrary. As an ally of the free world, the free world would acknowledge its genuine needs, and help them get what they need.

    So why all the trenchcoat behavior? The only thing I can think of is that they have a terrible human rights record and want to keep it that way. Openness would risk profound criticism of that. But stuff about it STILL gets out anyway. So what do they have to lose, really? Wouldn't it be better, for all concerned, to no longer engage in human rights violations, and find another, more honorable, way to gain whatever ends they seek?

    Maybe the reason they don't stop is: "face." Losing "face" is an extraordinarily high value in Oriental cultures. But "face" means image – how you're perceived to be, but is NOT always what you really are. The need for "face" would make it extraordinarily hard to admit to past wrongdoings, even if they repent of them and want to change for the better. In the West, this is possible, but the requirements for "face" in the Orient represent a huge obstacle to this kind of honesty.

    So, to save "face," Orientals often choose to perpetuate the wrongdoing (even if they don't want to), rather than change gears, admit the wrongdoing, and vow to do better henceforth. Because doing THAT makes them lose "face."

    A genuine and demonstrable good character and strong honor ought to be far more meaningful than someone's "face," which is merely an image, not the real thing.

    It also seems to me that doing that would – and should – actually make them gain more "face." Being honorable should NEVER cost a person status or respect.

    I'd really like to see China grow up enough to join the free world voluntarily – and fully. As a partner to the free world, rather than a nation that tries to sneak around it, they'd be welcomed.

    Cleaning up their own internal corruption and maltreatment of citizens will only make China stronger. Cleaning up their emissions would benefit the Chinese people in a very obvious and welcome way, too.

    I want China to decide to become a truly free-world nation. For its own good, and for ours, as well. Something inside of me tells me that most of the Chinese really DO want to be part of the free world. They're very intelligent people, on the whole, and I respect them for that and many other fine attributes (among them, their cuisine!). Now, if they can become a genuine democracy (yes, warts and all!), the whole world would be better off than it is now. And no more buffer zones would ever be needed again.

    As a new member of the free world, the U.S., all of Europe, and the rest of the free world, would be China's ALLIES. That's nothing to sneeze at.

    What's not to like about that?

    Then Fat boy in NK can stuff his arrogance and weaponry where the sun...

    June 7, 2013 at 4:18 pm | Reply
    • ironicatlas

      H.B. you have a nice way to put Chinese issues, and it's coming from sincerity i believe. However you are forgetting the key point. the people in power got there through the communist party route. All of their power, benefits and protection is gone if they agree to "be free". You can not have 'glasnost" and a dictatorial system. They watched the Soviet Union dissolve overnight and learned their lesson. It will not happen in a peaceful way and/or in a short time, but it will happen eventually.

      June 10, 2013 at 9:00 am | Reply
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