The Guardian reports:
China’s willingness to accept Korean reunification, revealed in private conversations between senior Communist party officials and US and South Korean diplomats, reflects Beijing’s deep, previously concealed exasperation with its wayward ally North Korea.
But the leaked US diplomatic cables suggest there is no consensus on how to proceed towards this goal, with Beijing and Washington looking to each other to take the lead.
China’s reluctance to confront its ally was highlighted last week after the North launched a one-hour artillery bombardment of a South Korean island, plunging the peninsula into one of its worst crises since the Korean war. The White House swiftly deplored what it called an “outrageous” act and pledged military solidarity with South Korea. But Beijing declined to condemn Pyongyang, instead calling for calm and a resumption of talks on the North’s nuclear programme.
Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, was among several American officials who subsequently demanded China take a stand. US pressure seems to have yielded limited results, with Beijing today inviting a North Korean official for talks in an apparent mediation effort. A senior Chinese diplomat has also travelled to Seoul as part of what China is calling “emergency consultations”.
It was reported last night that US, Japanese and South Korean officials will meet in Washington on 6 December to discuss the crisis with North Korea.
But China’s immediate Korea priorities continue unchanged: maintaining stability, a benign economic environment, and if possible, a peaceful dialogue. Notwithstanding its openness in the longer term to the idea of reconciliation and reunification, Beijing remains unwilling to do anything that could force the North Korea into a corner and increase the possibility that it might lash out unpredictably.