China refuses North Korea request for envoy

As if events in Pyongyang could not get any stranger, North Korea has been reduced to begging China for a diplomat — and begging Russia to remove theirs.  In an attempt to produce the appearance of an escalation, the Kim regime asked Russia to evacuate their embassy in Pyonyang to demonstrate a rise in tensions in the capital that, er, the Russian seem to have missed:

North Korea asked Russia on Friday to consider evacuating staff from its embassy in Pyongyang because of increasing tension on the Korean peninsula, a spokesman for the embassy said by phone from Pyongyang.

Denis Samsonov said Russia was examining the request but was not planning an evacuation at this stage, and there were no outward signs of increased tension in the North Korean capital itself.

He said other foreign embassies had received similar requests.

A North Korean Foreign Ministry representative “proposed that the Russian side consider the issue of the evacuation of employees in connection with the increasingly tense situation”, Samsonov said.

While the DPRK tried to stage a diplomatic evacuation on one hand for show, they had also become concerned over a real diplomatic breach with China, their only real tie to the rest of the world. China has begun moving significant military resources to the border, perhaps worried that a collapse will set loose a flood of refugees, but also perhaps to remind the Kim regime of their patronage and its finite patience.  They sent an unmistakable signal yesterday in refusing to send a special envoy to patch up any misunderstandings:

China has also continued to move tanks and armored vehicles whilst flying flights near North Korea this week as part of a military build-up in the northeastern part of the country that U.S. officials say is related to the crisis with North Korea.

In a dramatic twist yesterday, China reportedly rejected a request from the North to send them an envoy in order to improve their soured relations, in what could be seen as a warning regarding the regime’s recent warmongering rhetoric.

Yesterday, I noted a certain freedom in Beijing that suddenly allowed people to openly criticize North Korea, and China’s relationship with its regime.  This is an even clearer signal to Kim Jong-un and his military leadership that Beijing has run out of patience with their nutty brinksmanship, and that they are rapidly approaching the point where China will cease protecting their interests.

Rationally speaking, China’s relationship with the  US and South Korea is much more important for their economic development.  North Korea is only useful to keep the US off balance in the Pacific Rim, and even that strategy seems outdated.  As commenters noted yesterday, it may now be in China’s interest to allow a reunification on Seoul’s terms that would keep them economically occupied for the next several decades, and which would eliminate any reason for the continued US military presence in the region.   The Kim regime’s irrationality may have provided the inertia needed for China to take a clear look at the circumstances of the present rather than just assume the Cold War strategy of the past.  And that’s bad news for hereditary dictators who like to dress up in Grandpa’s clothes.

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