The Herald Bulletin

Midday Update

Nation & World

December 13, 2013

Jang's execution leaves China in delicate position

(Continued)

BEIJING —

"Kim has now finished consolidating his power and doesn't need to take drastic change in his foreign policy. Jang was merely a person who offered advice and implemented policy," Wang said.

China's response to Jang's dramatic purging has been extremely low-key, emphasizing that the issue is North Korea's internal affair and expressing its hopes for stability and economic development. Along with stifling panic, Beijing may be hoping that its non-intervention will spare some of Jang's pro-China associates from being targeted for removal under the North's policy of collective punishment.

As with South Korea, the U.S. and other interested parties, Beijing is struggling to analyze the current state of affairs in Pyongyang and ascertain Kim's positions on key topics.

While Kim has enunciated a policy of jointly pursuing nuclear weapons and development, it isn't clear whether he views economic reforms as strengthening his rule or undermining it by inviting unwelcome comparisons with foreign economies and by introducing foreign concepts and practices, said Shi Yuanhua, director of the Center for Korean Studies at the Fudan University.

"North Korea couldn't live without China, but cooperation in developing the special economic zones may be affected to some extent," Shi said.

Overall, Kim's attitude toward economic reform in cooperation with China remains a mixed bag, said Fang Xiuyu, a North Korea expert at Shanghai's Fudan University.

Even as Pyongyang was announcing Jang's purging, North Korean and Chinese representatives were signing contracts on cross-border high-speed rail and highway connections, Fang pointed out.

"I don't think North Korea's economic relations with China will be affected because of this particular incident, but all we can really do for now is speculate," she said.

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