“China, US swap N Korea secrets
By Philip Dorling
STRATEGIC rivals China and the United States 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 US Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the US Defence Department have all held secret discussions on North Korea with Chinese military intelligence.
According to US diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks and provided exclusively to The Age, US-Chinese defence consultative talks held in Beijing in July 2009 included lengthy exchanges about North Korea between US Defence Under Secretary for Policy Michele Flournoy and top-ranking Chinese generals including People’s Liberation Army Intelligence Department director Major-General Yang Hui.
In the course of the discussions, General Yang referred to the “close co-operation” between the US and China on “matters of intelligence” concerning North Korea and cited “a recent PLA Intelligence Department visit to exchange information with the CIA”.
Speaking in the aftermath of North Korea’s May 2009 nuclear test, the PLA’s intelligence chief observed that “whenever there is crisis there is opportunity”.
Asked by the US delegation to assess North Korea’s motivations for its provocative behaviour, General Yang maintained that “survival had always been the number one priority” for the isolated communist regime in Pyongyang.
“North Korea is in an ‘inferior position’ to South Korea based on all measurements of national strength,” he said. “Moreover … after witnessing the US invasion of Iraq, North Korea concluded it could not give up its nuclear weapons program.”
General Yang also suggested domestic political considerations played a significant role in Pyongyang’s decision to conduct a second nuclear 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. [North Korean leader] Kim Jong-il’s health problems … also added urgency to the question of succession.”
Ms Flournoy told the Chinese that if North Korea further increased its nuclear and missile capabilities, “there will be serious consequences for the security of both China and the United States”.
“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, including missile defence, improving alliances and enhancing offensive capabilities.”
Chinese strategists have repeatedly expressed opposition to US and Japanese missile defence deployments as a threat to the potential effectiveness of its nuclear arsenal.
Other US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks late last year suggest that some senior Chinese political figures were increasingly prepared to accept Korean reunification and were privately distancing themselves from their North Korean ally.
Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister He Yafei reportedly told a senior US diplomat that Pyongyang was behaving like a ”spoiled 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 generation Chinese Communist Party leaders no longer regarded North Korea as a useful or reliable ally, and would be reluctant to intervene militarily if the Pyongyang regime collapsed.
Quoting private remarks by another Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister, Cui Tiankai, and Communist Party Central Committee International Department Vice-Director Liu Jieyi, Mr Chun said Beijing was increasingly “ready to ‘face the new reality’ that [North Korea] now had little value to China as a buffer state – a view that since North Korea’s 2006 nuclear test had reportedly gained traction among senior [Chinese] leaders”.
Mr Chun said that in the event of a North Korean collapse, China would clearly “not welcome” any US military presence north of the Korean Peninsula demilitarised zone. However, again citing his conversations with Mr Cui and Mr Liu, Mr Chun said China would be comfortable with a reunified Korea controlled by Seoul and anchored to the US in a “benign alliance” – as long as Korea was not hostile towards China.
Remarks by senior Chinese military officers in the 2009 US-China defence consultations support Mr Chun’s dismissal of the prospect of possible Chinese military intervention in the event of a North Korean collapse.
PLA intelligence chief General Yang observed that North Korea’s proximity to China made the issue one of “great concern”, but he reminded the US delegation that China had “paid a heavy price” for the three wars it had fought on the Korean Peninsula – a war in 1592, the 1894-95 Sino-Japanese War and the 1950-53 Korean War.
He said he and the then North Korea mission manager in the Office of the US Director of National Intelligence, Joseph DeTrani, had agreed in a recent meeting that the US and China had “broad room for co-operation on the North Korea issue” and that the most important objective was to prevent tensions from escalating.”
(Quelle: The Age.)