March 30, 2012 10:06
High-level communication channels between China and North Korea have apparently been shut down since the death of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Pyongyang is failing to inform its sole ally of important developments like the upcoming missile launch.
The only high-ranking Chinese official to visit North Korea since Kim's death was Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying, who was in Pyongyang between Feb. 20 and 25 to discuss aid to the North. Fu met his North Korean counterpart Kim Sung-gi but did not speak with higher ranking officials.
China was stunned by the announcement on March 16 of the launch plan for what the North says is a space rocket and had to summon the ambassador to China late at night to protest. Wu Dawei, China's chief delegate to the six-party nuclear talks, then met with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho on March 19 when Ri was visiting Beijing. There are rumors that Ri also met with State Councilor Dai Bingguo, who outranks Wu.
But North Korean officials dealing with China are only working-level bureaucrats, making it doubtful that Beijing's concerns over the North's missile launch were expressed to the highest echelons of the North Korean regime, according to experts.
China has through various diplomatic channels tried to hold talks with North Korea, but the North is apparently rejecting the requests saying it is still in mourning for Kim Jong-il.
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