The Korea Herald


China trying to develop 'normal' ties with N. Korea: experts

By 이우영

Published : Dec. 25, 2014 - 20:24

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BEIJING (Yonhap) – A high-ranking Chinese official's visit to the North Korean Embassy in Beijing last week to pay homage to the country's late leader, Kim Jong-il, suggests that China intends to develop a "normal" relationship with its estranged ideological neighbor, multiple Chinese scholars said in a media report Thursday.

Liu Yunshan, who ranks fifth in China's ruling Communist Party hierarchy, visited the North's embassy on the eve of the third anniversary of the death of the North's late leader. Kim Jong-il's death opened the way for his son, Kim Jong-un, to take over the reign of the isolated country.

In Confucian tradition, the third anniversary of Kim Jong-il's death was significant for the current leader, Kim Jong-un, because it meant the end of the three-year period of official mourning for his father, paving the way for him to pursue new policies, analysts said.

For North Korea, China is still its only major ideological ally but their traditional alliance, forged during the Korean War, appears to be wearing thin lately, with the North showing no clear sign of giving up its nuclear ambition.

"The visit by Liu shows China intends to maintain a normal relationship with North Korea," Li Kaisheng, a research fellow at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times, which is close to the Chinese Communist Party. "It also indicates China's consistent practice of not publicizing its conflicts with North Korea."

Unless North Korea abandons its nuclear weapons program, Li said, "The foundation for stability in the (Korean) peninsula and the whole region will be absent. Then any improvement in bilateral relations will be temporary."

Da Zhigang, director of the Institute of Northeast Asian Studies at the Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, also told the same newspaper that the current frosty relations between Pyongyang and Beijing would help form normal ties between the allies.

"In fact, both countries need to maintain their traditional friendship on the one hand, and on the other hand, consider developing a normal relationship, without being hijacked by the 'alliance sealed in blood,'" Da said.

"In this sense, the temporary adjustment of China-North Korea relations may widen their differences for the time being, but will help shape a normal relationship for the future," Da said.

Political ties between China and its only treaty ally, North Korea, remain strained, particularly after the North's third nuclear test in February 2013.

However, few analysts believe that China will exert enough pressure on the North to give up its nuclear weapons because it could lead to the collapse of the North's regime and hurt China's national interests.