China Says Jang Song-taek's Ouster an 'Internal Affair'

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman on Monday said the ouster and arrest of North Korean eminence grise Jang Song-taek is "an internal affair."

Beijing "hopes that the North will achieve national stability, economic development and happiness for its people," Hong Lei told reporters. He added it remains committed to maintaining traditionally friendly relations with the North.

Hong said he did not know whether the North had notified China of Jang's arrest beforehand.

Chinese experts are paying close attention to the developments. One expert speaking on condition of anonymity said, "Kim Jong-un tightened his grip on the military by purging Army chief Ri Yong-ho last year. This time, he seems to be attempting to establish a one-man leadership system by targeting Jang."

The expert added, "Many Chinese people believed that Jang, whom they used to call the 'Regent,' would be purged some day. It's just that his downfall came sooner than expected."

Others worry that Kim Jong-un could offset a massive upheaval. An expert with a government-funded think tank here said, "It's possible that Kim Jong-un will seek a Cultural Revolution-style radical generational change or drastic economic measures in the manner of the Great Leap Forward."

Nothing appears to have changed in the North Korean Embassy in Beijing, although the ambassador and his deputy are thought to be close to Jang. "There seem to be no special moves at the embassy. I understand that both Ambassador Ji Jae-ryong and Minister Plenipotentiary Pak Myong-ho are in Beijing," a diplomatic source there said.

"North Korea is a country where power is concentrated in one man, Kim Jong-un," the source added. "Chinese officials are speculating that no sudden and significant change will likely occur there even though something has happened to a No. 2 or No. 3 man."

Meanwhile, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera on Monday said Tokyo is watching if there are any military moves in the North. And Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, "It seems that Kim Jong-il's men are being replaced as power is concentrated in Kim Jong-un."

englishnews@chosun.com / Dec. 10, 2013 11:58 KST