November 16, 2009 12:48
When Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visited Pyongyang in October, North Korea and China boasted they had opened a new era of cooperation. The two countries described their talks as "constructive" even though no palpable progress was made in the North's nuclear issue. But according to a senior source in North Korea, one significant step was a secret agreement to restore intelligence cooperation.
No details have been disclosed, but it is presumed that this refers to cooperation between traditional intelligence agencies including North Korea's External Liaison Department and Operational Department rather than in ferreting out and repatriating North Korean defectors. The source said the two sides put the agreement into writing to strengthen their defense against South Korea, the U.S. and Japan.
North Korea is said to have asked China to provide intelligence about North Korean defectors and anti-North Korean government activities in China, while China reportedly asked the North to cooperate on cracking down on drug trafficking and counterfeiting of dollars or yuan.
Paradoxically, the agreement shows how much bilateral relations have worsened. Hwang Jang-yop, a former secretary of the North Korean Workers' Party, has testified that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il pays no attention to what China says, despite a general understanding that China has enormous influence on the North. According to Hwang, the North's refusal to learn from China's reforms and opening over the past 30 years proves that China has little influence over Kim.
Kim's father Kim Il-sung attached importance to relations with China and held consultations with his neighbor over many important policies. But Kim Jong-il has no particular interest in China except for economic aid. China's establishment of diplomatic relations with South Korea in 1992 was a major blow that deeply upset the North Korean regime, and the leadership's feelings have trickled down to lower-ranking officials, leading to widespread distrust of China among North Koreans.
The most serious conflict has arisen between the North and China due to the North's kidnapping of Chinese nationals involved in anti-North Korean activities. "Japan and South Korea are making an issue of nationals believed to have been abducted by North Korea, but more Chinese people have been disappeared by North Korean intelligence agents in China," says one Korean-Chinese resident near the Duman (Tumen) River. "The number of Chinese who have disappeared near the Apnok (Yalu) or Duman rivers has reached at least several hundred, and especially those who help North Korean defectors are living in fear because they know they are targets of the North's State Security Department."
North Korea is also the biggest thorn in the side of the Chinese intelligence agencies and police. Their chief concern in the three northeast Chinese provinces is how to crack down on counterfeit dollars and yuan and drugs smuggled out of the North.
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