Chinese Delegates At Shangri-La Express Frustration With N. Korea
By WENDELL MINNICK
SINGAPORE - Members of a Chinese delegation attending the 9th Asia Security Summit earlier this month indicated Beijing officials are flustered by North Korean hijinks.
Also known as the Shangri-La Dialogue the summit, held annually in Singapore, is run by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).
North Korean issues shared the spotlight at Shangri-La with difficulties over China's refusal to continue military exchanges with the U.S.
A Chinese government official at Shangri-La said he "was puzzled by his government's support for North Korea" in light of the sinking of a South Korean naval vessel, the Cheonan, by a North Korean torpedo on March 26.
"There is no open debate on the North Korean issue in China," he said. Unlike academic, media and government debates on Taiwan and relations with the U.S., there is no debate on North Korean issues due to fears of being harassed by North Korean embassy officials.
If a Chinese academic or media outlet writes something suggesting a change on Beijing's policy on Pyongyang the North Korean embassy sends someone to "your office to complain," he said.
"The North Koreans are very effective at silencing debate in China on North Korean issues." It is a form of intimidation and a successful way of controlling debate that could lead to positive changes, he said.
Other members of China's delegation to the Shangri-La expressed equal frustration over Pyongyang. China really had no time to prepare an adequate response to the crisis because North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il arrived in Beijing shortly after the sinking.
This has lead to suspicions in Beijing that North Korea planned the attack knowing Kim would be going to China to meet with officials, a Chinese delegate said.
The Beijing trip had been planned months before the incident and there was conjecture amongst some Chinese delegation members that Kim deliberately orchestrated the attack to project an image of a loyal and supportive Beijing.
There was literally no time to formulate a response to the crisis before Kim's visit, said a delegate. "Beijing lacks confidence in crisis management," he said.
The sinking occurred on March 26. South Korea launched a massive salvage operation and assembled an international investigative team consisting of civilian and military experts from Australia, Canada, United Kingdom and United States.
The investigation ran from March 31 through May 20 when South Korea announced that a North Korean torpedo sank the ship.
Kim met with Chinese government officials in Beijing from May 5 and 6.
Prior to Seoul's announcement there was speculation an accident aboard the ship was responsible and Beijing held back criticism of North Korea hoping the investigation would prove Pyongyang's innocence, said a Chinese delegate.
The investigation determined that torpedo fragments found at the scene were that of a North Korean CHT-02D torpedo, according to an IISS report issued May 20 in response to the announcement of findings in Seoul.
The IISS report, "Investigation Report on the Sinking of the ROK Ship Cheonan," said the "evidence matched in size and shape with the CHT-02D specifications on the drawing presented in introductory materials provided to foreign countries by North Korea for export purposes."
The torpedo parts include the "5x5 bladed contra-rotating propellers, propulsion motor and a steering section, perfectly match[ing] the schematics of the CHT-02D torpedo," the IISS report said.
Every country in Asia, including Myanmar, has sent representatives to the Shangri-La Dialogue except North Korea, an IISS official said. "They have been invited, but have never accepted," said John Chipman, Director-General and Chief Executive, IISS.
The IISS Shangri-La Dialogue has become the premier Asia defense and security forum in Asia, with numerous defense ministers and secretaries in attendance.
This year speeches were given by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, China's Deputy Chief of General Staff Gen. Ma Xiaotian, Japan's Minister of Defense Toshimi Kitazawa, South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak and South Korea's Minister of Defense Kim Tae Young.
Ma made no mention of North Korea in his June 5 speech entitled "New Dimensions of Security."
NORTH KOREAN PROVOCATIONS
■ 1968: A platoon of North Korean soldiers is stopped short of reaching the Blue House, the South Korean presidential residence, and after an intense fire fight only one North Korean soldier survives.
■ 1968: North Korea captures the U.S. Navy reconnaissance ship Pueblo.
■ 1972: A North Korean bomb detonates prematurely at South Korea's National Cemetery before the scheduled arrival of the South Korean president.
■ 1976: North Koreans wielding ax handles kill a U.S. soldier in Panmunjom.
■ 1983: A North Korean bomb kills several members of the South Korean presidential Cabinet in Rangoon.
■ 1987: A North Korean bomb detonates on KAL flight 858 killing 115 people.
■ 1996: A North Korean minisubmarine is captured along the east coast of South Korea.