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Uneasy China hopes for stability in North Korea after purge

world Updated: Dec 12, 2013 16:59 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times

China on Tuesday said it wants friendly relations and hopes for stability in North Korea days after a powerful leader, considered close to Beijing, was purged from the party and government.

China, considered North Korea's most important ally and source of aid, was probably taken by surprise with the latest development in its neighbouring country when the political bureau of the Central Committee of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party announced its decision on Sunday to strip Jang Song-thaek of all posts and expel him from the party.

Jang was publicly dragged away by the police during a party meeting and then relieved of all power and posts.

Jang, the uncle of North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un, was stripped of his titles amid allegations of instigating dissent in the party, womanising, gambling and drug use.

In 2012, Jang had led a large delegation to China to discuss construction of special economic zones, agency reports said.

"We hope North Korea can maintain national stability, the people’s well-being and economic growth. China will remain committed to developing the friendly relationship between China and North Korea," spokesperson Hong Lei's said when asked about the development at the daily foreign ministry briefing on Tuesday.

Beijing’s unease at the development was reflected in an editorial in the state-run nationalist tabloid, the Global Times.

It said the relationship between the two countries was rooted in strategic interests and not Communist ideology as commonly perceived.

"As Jang was viewed as the second-most powerful figure and is North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's uncle, this announcement is considered a significant political event," it said.

The newspaper piece pointed that the reality of relationship between China and North Korea was different from what was perceived.

"China and North Korea have long taken different development paths. The two are not comparable in terms of politics and economy… China's friendliness and aid for North Korea are rooted in China's national interest, as are China's ties with and aid for Pakistan. Those who make an ideological interpretation of Sino-North Korea relations probably are living in past times," it said.

The editorial added: "A friendly relationship between China and North Korea is not only critical to the North, but also a strategic and diplomatic leverage for China. With China's rise, its diplomatic leverage will become greater, yet the impact of bilateral relations in the Asia-Pacific region is irreplaceable."

It added that to keep this friendly relationship should be China's mainstream mentality toward this neighbor.