Cablegate: Shanghai Scholars Express Concern Over Delay in Six-Party

DE RUEHGH #0422/01 2700640
R 260640Z SEP 08



E.O. 12958: DECL: 9/26/2033

CLASSIFIED BY: Christopher Beede, Political/Economic Chief, U.S.
Consulate General, Shanghai, Department of State.
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)

1. (S/NF) Summary: xxxxx are concerned about
the current impasse in the Six-Party Talks, but each varies in
his diagnosis of its causes and prescriptions for U.S. policy.
xxxxx claims that a debate has emerged within the Chinese
leadership over the merits of quick U.S. delisting, as a result
of Pyongyang's allegedly incomplete nuclear declaration. These
xxxxx agree that, for the moment, none of North Korean leader
Kim Jong-il's three sons is likely to be tapped to succeed him.
xxxxx, North Korea in August questions
the World Food Program's (WFP) forecast of an imminent famine

2. (U) xxxxx Korean politics and the
ongoing Six-Party Talks. xxxxx.

Deadlock over verification

3. (C) xxxxx are concerned about the current
impasse in the Six-Party Talks, but each varies in his diagnosis
of its causes and prescriptions for U.S. policy. xxxxx
view, Washington is primarily responsible for North Korean
foot-dragging. Under the "action for action" framework, xxxxx
argues, the United States promised to remove North Korea from
the State Sponsors of Terror list and Trading with the Enemy Act
(TWEA) restrictions in return for a complete nuclear declaration
from Pyongyang. After forty days, it became legally possible for
Washington to delist the North Koreans in August, but this did
not occur. xxxxx continues, the United States seems to want
international inspectors to be able to access North Korea's
nuclear sites virtually "at whim," and to meet with its nuclear
scientists. These conditions have given Pyongyang "an excuse for
their present inaction." xxxxx North Korea is "truly
disappointed" with this development -- its leaders believe "they
did something" and are owed something in return -- and, xxxxx
opinion, it is "difficult for the other Six-Party states to
blame them."

4. (S/NF) xxxxx, on the other hand, dissents from this view.
According xxxxx, the nuclear declaration North Korea submitted
in May was incomplete. xxxxx claims that critical information
about secret underwater nuclear facilities located on North
Korea's coast. For this reason, a debate has emerged within the
Chinese leadership over the merits of quick U.S. delisting, xxxxx
continues. One camp believes that continued momentum in the
Six-Party Talks is critical to their success, and has concluded
that Washington must adopt a more flexible attitude. The other
camp, however, has taken the incomplete nuclear declaration as
evidence that the regime in Pyongyang is truly "a ticking time
bomb," and regard Washington's tough stance on verification as a
potential opportunity to finally deal with a persistent regional
irritant.xxxxx does not believe the United States should delist
North Korea yet, though he argues Washington needs to find some
token action it can take now to demonstrate its good faith.

5. (C) xxxxx is confident that, if the United States
removes North Korea from the State Sponsors of Terror list and
the TWEA -- even absent progress on a verification protocol --
its negotiators will act quickly to reciprocate and permit some
form of verification. That North Korea has been labeled a state
sponsor of terror is "an ongoing source of embarrassment" for
the regime, xxxxx argues, and Washington must not underestimate
its "desire for face." xxxxx agree that, despite North
Korea's recent moves to apparently renew its activities at the
Yongbyon nuclear complex, including its removal of International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) seals on equipment, Pyongyang's
threats are largely for show. As part of the Six-Party process,
the regime has already taken significant steps toward nuclear
disablement, xxxxx out, so North Korean leaders cannot

Shanghai 00000422 002.2 of 003

actually accomplish very much in the short term.

Kim jong-il's health

6. (C) Regarding Kim Jong-il's (KJI) purported ill health, xxxxx
admit they have been unable to divine what has actually
happened, noting such information is "top secret" even to North
Koreans. xxxxx claims that KJI has a long history of recreational
drug use that has resulted in frequent bouts of epilepsy and
contributed to his poor health overall. xxxxx recalls
hearing an unconfirmed report that, in the last several weeks, a
team of five Chinese physicians traveled to Pyongyang, perhaps
to tend to KJI. xxxxx cautions against reading too much into what
he considers "pure speculation." Even if KJI suffered some
medical emergency, illness "does not necessarily mean he is
dying or has lost political control, or that regime collapse is
somehow imminent."

7. (C) At the present time, xxxxx considers it "likelier than not"
KJI remains in charge and is making political decisions. xxxxx is
less certain, quoting reports that long time consort and former
secretary Kim Ok may be caring for Kim and overseeing policy on
his behalf. KJI puts a lot of confidence in Kim Ok, notes xxxxx,
recalling that she was a member of the North Korean delegation
led by General Jo Myong-rok that visited the Clinton White House
in October 2000.

Contenders for future leadership

8. (C) There is consensus among xxxxx that, at least
for the moment, none of KJI's three sons is likely to be tapped
to succeed him. xxxxx considers the two youngest sons, Kim
Jong-chol and Kim Jong-un, far too inexperienced and incapable
of effective governance. xxxxx, observing that KJI's
oldest son, Kim Jong-nam, is "too much of a playboy," Kim
Jong-chol is "more interested in video games" than governing,
and Kim Jong-un is simply too young. Additionally, KJI had been
groomed for many years to replace his father and former North
Korean leader Kim Il-Sung before the latter passed away. In
contrast, xxxxx, none of the sons has received similar
preparatory treatment.

9. (C) The most likely scenario for succession, xxxxx,
is a group of North Korean military leaders, including civilians
with close military connections, taking the helm from KJI. xxxxx
also believes the military is probably best situated to run the
country, at the present time. Still, if KJI remains in charge
for another five or ten years, Beijing might then prefer to see
Kim Jong-nam -- who is more of a known quantity than an ad hoc
lineup of civil-military elements -- rise to power, xxxxx.

10. (S)xxxxx that Kim Yong-nam (KYN) -- the president of
North Korea's Supreme People's Assembly and second in command --
seems the likeliest candidate to lead a new regime. In recent
months, KYN has received foreign leaders and represented North
Korea at many of the same events KJI would normally attend. xxxxx
also reports that a younger brother of KYN's currently heads the
Propaganda Department -- a position once held by KJI during his
ascent to power -- while another relative runs North Korea's
intelligence outfit. KYN is over 80 years old, xxxxx, so
even a caretaker leadership role that fell to him would be short
lived. xxxxx, it is interesting that KYN's family is
seeded in the same "power positions" long considered important
by the current ruling Kim family.

Perils and promise of external exposure

11. (C) xxxxx that North Korea is struggling to resolve the
contradiction between its need for international engagement and
desire to maintain ideological purity. Objectively speaking,
exposure to the outside world -- its ways of thinking and
quality of life -- is necessary to the regime's survival, xxxxx
points out. From Pyongyang's perspective, someone who has seen
the world as KJI's sons have might best be equipped to undertake
reform in North Korea "on his own terms." At the same time, the
regime has traditionally feared external influence, valued
ideological purity, and prized ongoing closeness to the regime
in its prospective cadres. As a result, xxxxx, those who

Shanghai 00000422 003 of 003

have traveled internationally are often marginalized within the
insular North Korean leadership or ousted altogether. In this
respect, xxxxx, the regime actually resembles China
during its ideological heyday. It is "no coincidence" that Zhou
Enlai and Deng Xiaoping, who both had overseas experience, were
later the victims of purges at home, xxxxx.

A glimpse beyond the yalu

12. (C) xxxxx extremely poor quality of the main road into Rajin, despite
its role as the key route into that city, one of North Korea's
special economic zones (SEZ) during the 1990s (the Rajin-Sonbong
SEZ) that is also equipped with a harbor. xxxxx recalls watching a
television news program commemorating a North Korean military
holiday that coincided with his stay, and found it strange that
only "still photo footage" aired of KJI reportedly visiting a
military unit that day.

13. (C) xxxxx not have the opportunity to engage ordinary
North Korean citizens -- he spoke "only with his minders" -- but
remembers observing many people walking on the streets, riding
bicycles, and generally appearing healthy and happy. xxxxx
recognizes that xxxxx took him only to a small corner of
North Korea, he claims he saw "no signs of starvation" during
this time. xxxxx skeptical of the World Food Program's
(WFP) recent assessment that North Korea may soon be hit by a
harsh famine, perhaps its worst since 1997. xxxxx,
argues that whatever happens regarding the food situation, a
famine will certainly not threaten the regime's political
stability, asserting that North Koreans will sooner "die
quietly" of starvation than defy Pyongyang.


14. (C) Although difficult to verify xxxxx, our discussions suggest a variety of Chinese opinions
regarding how best to approach the North Korean nuclear dilemma.
Consensus on the subject continues xxxxx.

© Scoop Media

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