Magazine article Newsweek International

China's Reaction: Tightening the Screws; Would Beijing Dump Kim? It's Certainly Not Likely, but

Magazine article Newsweek International

China's Reaction: Tightening the Screws; Would Beijing Dump Kim? It's Certainly Not Likely, but

Article excerpt

Byline: Melinda Liu (With B. J. Lee in Seoul and Jonathan Ansfield in Beijing)

Once upon a time Beijing officials and scholars would have scoffed at the idea of effecting Chinese-style regime change in Pyongyang. But in the wake of Kim's nuke test, an unprecedented debate has broken out over Beijing's North Korea policies. Last Friday four major Chinese banks stopped making financial transfers to North Korea--a tactic that could quickly pinch a weak economy that relies on China as a link to the international financial system. And this year China has reduced food exports to Pyongyang by two thirds. "I've never seen the Chinese leadership so resolved to be tougher towards North Korea," says Zhu Feng, head of Peking University's international-security program.

Among some close advisers to the government, the idea of a Beijing-friendly palace coup has gained new currency. China certainly has the means: it provides 11,000 barrels of oil to North Korea every day , accounting for more than 70 percent of Pyongyang's total energy supply. Beijing stopped oil deliveries for three days in early 2003 to pressure Pyongyang to join the Six-Party Talks. (Later Chinese apparatchiks insisted there had been a mechanical malfunction.) Chinese authorities insist they want Kim to return to the talks again, but some scholars, furious at Kim's recalcitrance, are calling on their government to pull the oil plug instead. "Chinese diplomacy has been a failure," says Prof. Zhang Liangui, a foreign-policy analyst at the influential Central Party School. …

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