After Jang Song Thaek’s swift and dramatic removal from North Korea’s political leadership and subsequent execution yesterday, many are keeping a vigilant eye on China-DPRK relations.
It was announced by North Korea’s state news agency KCNA that Jang, Kim Jong-Un’s uncle and former senior government official, had admitted “to attempting to overthrow the state” and was “executed immediately”. According to the BBC, the agency labelled him “worse than a dog”, a “traitor” and “human scum”.
KCNA also said Jang:
Attempted to “overthrow the state” Transformed his department into “a ‘little kingdom'” and attempted to “trigger off discontent” within the army to mobilise a coup Took control of the “major economic fields of the country” and “schemed to drive the economy of the country and people’s living into an uncontrollable catastrophe” Committed corruption by transferring construction units to his contacts Committed irregularities related to a joint economic zone with China, Rason Was responsible for unpopular currency reforms in 2009. In December 2009 Pyongyang’s reported redenomination of the won knocked two zeros off the nominal value of each banknote.
A longtime associate of Kim Jong Il, Jang was once seen as a regent to the young dictator. He also had strong patronage networks of his own, and within the ultraconservative halls of North Korean power was seen as something of a liberal. He visited Seoul in 2002 and has made several official trips to China, most recently in August 2012.
According to a report by The Diplomat, Jang’s charges criticise his dealings with China, specifically his championing of economic reform. During his last visit to China in August 2012, he met with then-President Hu Jintao and then-Premier Wen Jiabao. They agreed to continue working together on “special economic zones” on the China-DPRK border, such as Rason.
The Diplomat continues:
One of the many charges leveled against Jang was the accusation that he committed “such acts of treachery as selling off precious resources of the country at cheap prices.” This is almost certainly a reference to North Korea’s exports of iron ore and other minerals to China. Kim Jong-Un had complained previously that North Korea’s resources should be sold for higher prices; now he has labeled Jang’s opposing view “treachery.” This doesn’t bode well for Chinese mine operators in the region, which in turn means North Korea could jeopardize one of its more steady sources of income.
This latest rejection of China’s path to development supposedly further complicates China’s already problematic relationship with North Korea. However, most analysts predict this will not result in any substantial changes in the near future.
Hong Lei, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, commented on Jang’s execution yesterday, saying, “This is the internal affairs of the DPRK…China will stay committed to promoting its traditional, friendly and cooperative relationship with the DPRK.”
By Maea Lenei Buhre