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What was the true intention behind Secretary Kerry's trip to China?

By Murray Hunter - posted Tuesday, 16 April 2013


In his first trip to the region after becoming US Secretary of State and after a whistle stop in South Korea, John Kerry flew into Beijing to meet with China's State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Saturday.

If one reads the BBC report about this meeting, it appears written in a manner to make us believe that China is sympathetic to the US version of events and condemning "any provocative acts" from North Korea. However this is a quote from John Kerry himself, rather than any official statement from the Chinese Government. In fact Yang Jiechi stated that China is "firmly committed to upholding peace and stability and advancing the denuclearization process on the Korean Peninsula.......peaceful through dialogue", (also reported later in the article) without any further elaboration.

The only agreement the US got with China was that both sides agreed to further discussions.

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So what was the purpose of Kerry's trip to China?

The chronology of events on the Korean Peninsula is well known. However in the "western media", events have been portrayed in a manner where anything that North Korea says is a provocation and anything the US does is a necessary defensive response. This is hardly objective when North Korea is well known for its "aggressive statements" especially around the time of the joint US-South Korean Foal Eagle joint military exercises each year. In addition, North Korea's statements have not been followed with any specific actions, except the closing of the Kaesong Industrial Zone, and the US is not just talking but moving some of its most sophisticated military hardware right onto the doorstep of North Korea. North Korea may be guilty of verbal escalation, but the US is the only party that has actually escalated anything militarily, although the "western media" is continually warning of possible North Korean military action, which until today has not happened or even looks like happening.

Every BBC online article features a map of the supposed range of North Korean missiles and warheads, but which North Korea has never tested. No articles have asked the question whether North Korea actually has the capacity to produce nuclear weapons that are capable of being put on missiles as warheads. From the test of a crude bomb to miniaturizing bombs that actually work is a major step in technology, which North Korea is unlikely to possess at present.

Some very brief historical context may shed some light on this show of force not witnessed in decades.

The Clinton Administration signed an accord with North Korea's then leader Kim Il-sung where Japan agreed to build a light water reactor for electricity generation and supply oil until the reactor was ready to go online. The then South Korean President Kim Dae-jung also initiated the "Sunshine policy" with the North in an effort to build up trust and cooperation which would lead to an eventual form of unification, a deep aspiration of most Koreans. It was out of this agreement with Kim Dae-jung's successor Roh Moo-jung that a further agreement was made to build the Kaesong Industrial Zone, something that gave a symbolic connection between the North and South.

This eventually led to an exchange of visits in 2000 between the US and North Korea where then US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright went to Pyongyang and Vice Marshal Jo Myong-rok, the second in command in North Korea visited Washington. At this point the US and North Korea were on the verge of official diplomatic recognition and the North agreeing to end its missile testing program.

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However upon the incoming of George W. Bush as President the pending missile agreement didn't precede as the new administration did not believe North Korea could be trusted. Then came 9/11 and President Bush labeled North Korea as one of the "axis of evil" in the forerunning rhetoric to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

US accusations in 2002 that North Korea was operating a uranium enrichment plant saw application of further sanctions on North Korea. The North seeing the US invasion of Iraq would have easily contributed to Pyongyang believing that this could happen to them.

In 2006 North Korea exploded its first small nuclear bomb. This at the time led to some skepticism where some believed the explosion was faked with an extremely large amount of TNT.

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About the Author

Murray Hunter is an associate professor at the University Malaysia Perlis.

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