Academic journal article The Journal of East Asian Affairs

North Korea's Peripheral Diplomacy in the "Post Kim Jong-Il Era" and Its Relationship with Japan

Academic journal article The Journal of East Asian Affairs

North Korea's Peripheral Diplomacy in the "Post Kim Jong-Il Era" and Its Relationship with Japan

Article excerpt


After the second launch of the Optical Star 3 satellite and the third nuclear test, the situation of North Korea's peripheral diplomacy further deteriorated. To alleviate the enormous pressures brought about by worsening the external environment, North Korea had to make a concession on the "Abduction Issue", even though it repeatedly stressed that it had resolved and resolutely opposed the entanglement of the "Abduction Issue", seeking to ease the DPR K-Japan relationship, and then propelling the alleviation of the peripheral diplomatic dilemma. Eventually, North Korea restarted the full investigation into the "Abduction Issue" by establishing a high-level "Special Investigation Commission", while Japan lifted part of the unilateral sanctions against North Korea therefore, their relationship has entered a period of brief easing. But actually, the loose relationship between DPR K and Japan does not play a critical role in influencing North Korea's peripheral diplomacy as expected, as its influence on North Korea's periphery diplomacy is extremely limited.

Starting with North Korea's peripheral diplomacy in the "Post Kim Jong-il Era", this essay will tease out the changing process of North Korea's relationship with China, U.S. and Russia, clarify the basic thread of interactions on the "Abduction Issue" between DPR K and Japan, and explore the internal reasons for the limited progress made by DPR K and Japan on it and why the relationship between DPR K and Japan could achieve a period of brief ease.


After Kim Jong-un took the reins of supreme leadership of North Korea, China, the United States, Russia and other peripheral powers were full of expectations, hoping that Kim could bring a brand new look for North Korea's domestic and foreign affairs. However, with two launches of the Optical Star 3 satellite and the third nuclear test, Kim Jong-un clearly demonstrated his continuance of the "Military First Policy" and his persistence on possessing nuclear weapons. The peripheral powers are utterly dissatisfied with North Korea's new leader and eventually unanimously approve of the UN Security Council Resolution 2094 to impose the most severe sanctions against North Korea. North Korea's peripheral diplomacy in the "Post Kim Jong-il Era" has thus created a predicament.

The Sino-DPRK relationship stepping into a rough patch

The nuclear tests in October 2006 and May 2009 landed a blow to the Sino-DPR K relationship. But China and North Korea still maintained relatively good traditionally friendly relations before the death of Kim Jong-il. China's then premier Wen Jiabao paid an official visit to North Korea in October 2009. Kim Jong-il also visited China four times respectively in May 2010, August 2010, May 2011 and August 2011 respectively. At that time the bilateral relationship, which had been impacted was able to consolidate. After the official announcement of Kim Jong-il's death, China sent a message of condolence to North Korea at the fastest pace, and initially expressed China's support for North Korea's new leader. Then party and state leader Hu Jintao and other leaders went to the DPR K's embassy in China to offer condolences. In addition, China provided 0.5 million tons of food and 0.25 million tons of fuel as emergency assistance to North Korea to help it tide over the difficulties.1

In the initial period after North Korea's new leader took office, the Sino-DPR K relationship once presented the development of a positive trend, which could be found in the frequent senior government officials' visits between the two countries. In January 2012, China's then vice foreign minister Fu Ying and North Korea's then first vice foreign minister Kim Kye-gwan exchanged visits; in April, a delegation of Korean Workers Party paid a visit to China; in the following August, after Wang Jiarui, Minister of the International Department, Central Committee of CPC , visited North Korea and met with Kim Jong-un officially, North Korea's then Vice Chairman of the Nation Defense Commission Jang Song-thaek visited China, received by then Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao; in November, a CPC delegation paid a visit to North Korea, passing a personal letter by newly-elected General Secretary of CPC Xi Jin-ping to Kim Jong-un. …

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