A torrent of speculation has emerged from China's muted response towards the execution of North Korea's second-in-command, Jang Sung-taek, by his nephew-in-law and supreme leader Kim Jong-un, reports our Chinese-language sister paper Want Daily.
Jang, 67, formerly said to have been Kim's mentor, was executed on Dec. 12 for allegedly seeking to seize power. He was described as "despicable human scum" by state media and accused of treason, corruption, womanizing, gambling and taking drugs.
As the North's only diplomatic ally, China has remained largely silent on the execution. When asked about the matter at a press conference on Dec. 13, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei offered a tame response: "We have noted relevant reports. It is the DPRK's internal affair. As its neighbor, we hope to see the DPRK maintain political stability and realize economic development and people there lead a happy life."
South Korean paper JoongAng Ilbo, citing a Korean War expert and professor from the Korea University Graduate School in Seoul, says China is staying out of Pyongyang's affairs this time because it had learned its lesson in the 1950s when Mao Zedong's hasty intervention in Korea's internal affairs resulted in an awkward backfire.
Though Kim Il-sung rose to power as the founding leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea with the support of Mao and Stalin, he embarrassed Mao by ignoring the Chinese leader's advice to spare the life of Pak Hon-yong, a Korean independence activist and one of the leaders of the Korean communist movement during Japan's colonial rule. Pak was arrested in 1953 during Kim's purge of the South Korean Workers' Party faction and was executed in 1955.
Following the August Faction Incident in 1956, a failed attempt to overthrow Kim by deputy prime minister Choi Chang-ik and minister of commerce Yoon Kong-heum, a joint Soviet-Chinese delegation went to Pyongyang to "instruct" Kim to cease any purge and reinstate the leaders of the Yanan — that is, pro-Communist China — and Soviet factions. Kim initially followed the instructions in pardoning the leaders of the coup, but resumed the purges in 1957. By 1958, the Yanan faction had ceased to exist.
Without leverage to influence Kim, Mao was said to have apologized to the North Korean leader during the Moscow Conference in November 1957 for interfering in Pyongyang's internal affairs.
On the other hand, there are analysts who believe it is unlikely that modern Chinese leaders would look to Mao's past history in making decisions. The reason for China's silence, therefore, is the maintainance of stability in the North Korean regime given the unpredictable nature of its direction.
Commentary writer and former editor Deng Yuwen says that China has a special responsibility in dealing with North Korea as continuing to condone Pyongyang's belligerent behavior will become a major diplomatic burden. To Deng, there are only two ways in which China can deal with the situation: promise to protect North Korea and assist it in continuing economic reforms and denuclearization, or join forces with the US and South Korea to overthrow the regime.http://www.wantchinatimes.com/news-subclass-cnt.aspx?cid=1101&MainCatID=11&id=20131223000050