- By Isaac Stone Fish
Isaac Stone Fish is associate editor at Foreign Policy. Previously a Beijing correspondent for Newsweek, he wrote stories on such subjects as the Dalai Lama’s effect on international trade, China’s love affair with rogue states, and crystal meth in North Korea. His articles have also appeared in the International Herald Tribune, the Economist, and the Los Angeles Times.
On Wednesday, the Financial Times published an op-ed titled "China should abandon North Korea" by Deng Yuwen, the deputy editor of Study Times, the journal of China’s Central Party School. The remarkably strongly written piece calls for China to push for the reunification of the Korean peninsula — i.e., regime change in North Korea.
The Central Party School is the most elite school for cadres; Xi Jinping served as president of the school until being appointed chairman of the Communist Party. Deng is relatively low in the party (and party school) hierarchy, but his op-ed is the latest in a series of indications that Beijing might be considering pulling the plug on North Korea.
Shen Dingli, the director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University, published an article in these pages after North Korea’s third nuclear test on Feb. 12 arguing that "China has reached a point where it needs to cut its losses and cut North Korea loose." Jin Qiangyi, director of the Center for North and South Korea Studies at Yanbian University in northeast China, told the New York Times that "[f]or the first time the Chinese government has felt the pressure of public opinion not to be too friendly with North Korea."
In his FT op-ed, Deng argues that Beijing should give up on its erstwhile ally because:
- A relationship based on ideology — one of the most commonly stated reasons for China and North Korea’s friendship — "is dangerous," and "although both countries are socialist, their differences are much larger than those between China and the west."
- North Korea is more of a liability than a buffer to China.
- North Korea will not reform; if Kim Jong Un tries to, he could be overthrown. "Why should China maintain relations with a regime and a country that will face failure sooner or later?"
- North Korea is pulling away from Beijing — and Kim might even use his nuclear weapons to blackmail China.
"The best way of giving up on Pyongyang," Deng writes, "is to take the initiative to facilitate North Korea’s unification with South Korea," which, while still very unlikely, would open a whole new era in East Asia.
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C.| The Cable |