UPSWING IN SINO-NORTH KOREAN TIES

Created: 8/11/1982

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Upswing in Sino-Norih Korean Ties I

Korea hasubstantial and largely successful effort lo improve relations with Beijing over the past year, in part to counterbalance what it sees as growing US support for Seoul. The North Korean success with Beijing reflects and closer relations with the Chinese of :ne USSR j% oihcr major ally, to retpondcreascdranBeijing's favocable response ts in line with its longstanding goal of main lairing influercc in P'yongyang China, however, continues its tacit support of the status quo in Korea, and we foresee no major change in North Korean policy resulting from in improved rclaiionahip with Beijing.

China-USSR-North Korean triangle

The period in which North Korean relations wilh China have been closer lhan lu lies with ihe Soviei Union can be iraeed back. Al ihai time. Beijing was movingapprochement with the United Stales and concurrenily took special efforts io shore up iu relationship with P'yongyangeep the North Koreans from drifting into Moscow's orbit. Due in large pari lo greater Chinese attention, and to the Soviet failure io compete energetically,North Korean lies remained generally good in. Toward the end of the decade, however, when Beijing accelerated iu efforts to norma lire relations with the United States, some tertsion in Beijing-P'yongyang lies began to appear

Kim ll-song almost certainly saw in formal Sino-US ncarmalizalton in9 renewed evidence of China's willingness io subordinate Pyongyang'sto iu own broader strategic concerns Beijing, for example, became noticeably keaa supportive ofinsistence on the withdrawal of US forces from South Korea At the same lime, China began to relax its longstanding prohibition of direct trade with South

Koreaotal trade amounted io0 million, approaching the level of China's trade with the North.B

Concern about ihe possible consequences of closer Siao-US cooperation prompted Pyongyang initially to step up its effort!ourt ibe Soviets. North Korear messages marking (he October Revolution became noticeably warmer8yh anniversary of liberation from Japanese rule. Kim It-song for the first lime in many years publicly acknowledged ihe role of the Soviet Red Army in dcfealing Japan. Previously, the Norrh Koreans hadline with ihe chuche ideology of self reliance only the role of Kim'sThe North Koreans followed up ihi* gesture by sending Premier Yi Chong-ok, the fifth-rankingin the party hierarchy, ioh SovietParty Congress inuilargely ignored these moves The Soviets conticued to refuse to supply advanced weaponsio Ihe North andestrict economic support. Moscow, which bad long been urKomforuWe with Kim Il-song's independent and sometimes erratic policies, also was displeased with Pyongyang's failure lo meet iu bilateral trade cornmilmenis.

In contrast. South Korea's relations with the United Statesramatic turn for the belter. beginning inhe United Stales reaffirmed iu security commitment in South Korea by inviling President Chun Doo Hwan io Washington and for-malty ending ihe withdrawal of US troops. This was followed by announecrnenu of the sale of advanced weapons to South Korea, including. and more recently by high-level visits to Seoul.

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Having been rebuffed by Moscow, Pyongyang again turned toward Beijing inhe Northalmost certainly calculaied thai China's concerns

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about Soviet in Hue net and growing strains in L'S-China retaiioru over Taiwan could work in its favor. In celebratingh anniversary of the Chinese-North Korean mutual assistance treaty inyongyang rhapsodized userysdcstructtble- ties with iu "comrades in arms" and "class brothers" in China. It had used no comparable phrasesarkingh anniversary of its nearly identical treaty withew dayi earlier.

Beijing responded positively with visits by Premier Zbao Ziyang in1 and Defense Minister Geng Biao inhese gestures, moreover, were made in the context of foreign policy themes emphasizing China's Third World lies and itsinternational role. The Chinese may have felt less constrained in makingesponseesult of the strains in Sino-US ties. Both visits were marked by unusually strong attacks on Washington's policy toward Korea. Zhao characterized the US troop presence in the South asayor factor in ihe instability of Northeasteng carried thistep further by referring to the "US begcrnonists and their plot to create twon indirect reflection of China's criticism of US policy on Taiwan. Between these vbitt. the Chinese deliveredighters (China's verwon of theo North Korea, the first delivery of combat aircraft since the normalization of Sino-US relations. There are also some indications that the Chinese may have been curtailing their trade with the South Koreans since early this year, although Beijing appears to be cautiously continuing to expand unofficial contacts with South Korea, especially in athletic competitions.

In this regard, at the Chinese Ambassador's reception commemorating ihe anniversary of the China-North Korea mutual assistance treaty in July, the North Korean Foreign Minister invoked Kim Chong-il's name for the first timeoreign affairs context. North Korea also used that occasion, as it had the previous year, lo demonstrate the substantialexisting in its relations with its two major allies. The Pyongyang media again gave the anniversary of its treaty with Moscow only brief coverage and none of the detail or warmth thai characterized iuof the Chinese observance. Moscow's Korean-language broadcast on the occasionigh-level Soviet trade official's criticism of P'yongyang for failing "to fulfill its agreements in their entirety" in Ihe past.|

The new warmth in Sino-North Korean relations is further underscored by reports that Kim ll-song will visit Beijing in August or September, the first limefrip lakes place, Kim could be expected to ask Chinese leaders for more material support and greater backing for his political goals. But he also would probably want to review with the Chinese the status of their relations with the United States and personally assess the domestic policy and leadership changes under way in China.

The Chinese might secisit in both bilateral and international terms. It wouldtrongof support for Kim and his policies. But it would also provide theorum toa strengthened commitment to the Third World by honoring one of the presumed leaders of the Nonaligned Movement. I

may regard Ihe transfer of leadership from Kim ll-song to his son Kim Chong-jl as well advanced but still fraught with considerable uncertainty.its past reservations about this process, Beijing may hope that investing more in its lies withnow will build capitaluccessorperhaps indirectly minimize Ihc chances that Norlh Korea, like Vietnam, will become hostile in the future. |

No Fundamental Change in Policy We believe none of these developmentsundamental change in China's tacit support for the status quo on the Korean Peninsula. Beijing is aware that Kim's current pro-Chinese stance is not based on an ideological commitment but on Sovietto compete for Pyongyang'sfact that limits Pyongyang's leverage with China. Current Chinese support is tempered by Beijing'v desire to maintain Korean stability. This was clearly evident

during Ihe Geng trip. For all ihcthe visit, ihe Chinese Defense Minister stuck to the routine formula that US troops and military equipment should be withdrawn, withoutime frame. |

Pyongyang's sensitivity about the issue of timing was well demonstrated when, according to FBIS field coverage, the North Korean translator added the word "immediately" to Geng's statement of troop withdrawal and the North Korean radio and press reported ihe translator'shinese Foreign Ministry official later look pains to explainS official in Beijing that China's policy towardhad not changed and that he had not noticed the word "immediately" in the Geng statement. |

Pyongyang's lilt toward one of its traditional allies is noi new. North Korea has been careful, however, not to side totally with one or ihc other,irect attack on either. For instance. Pyongyang denounced the Vietnamese invasion of Kampuchea 3sbut was silent on ihe subsequent Chinese incursion into Vietnam and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

On balance. North Korea seems most likely towith its current efforts to strengthen ties witholicy thai has paid at least limitedin terms of Chinese political, economic, and military support. Pyongyang is almost certainlythat strains in Sino-US relations will somehow work to its advantage. At the same time, the North seems likely to probe from time to time for additional Sovietwith high expectations perhaps, but out of prudence because potential gains could be considerable. Indeed, only Ihe Soviets can provide Ihe advanced technology and weapons systems that the North wants. Moscow, however, has shown little inclination to provide such suprort.H

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