On April 26th, a high level source reported that Zhang Dejiang, a current Chinese Vice Premier and member of the Chinese Politburo, has been marked out by North Korea as a core ally among circles most sympathetic to the regime. North Korea has been forming close separate relations with the Vice Premier as it quietly pursues sideline diplomacy within China.
In a meeting of the Politburo in March, Zhang Dejiang gave a unofficial keynote speech that China must support North Korea for at least another five years in order to ensure the succession of the 3rd generation Kim to the North's leadership. In other words, the source said, Zhang announced the need to prolong support for the North Korean regime well into Xi Jinping's term of office .
The background to the North’s maneuvers reflects upcoming changes in the Chinese power elite. Before identifying Zhang Dejiang as an influential ally, North Korea had singled out Jia Qinglin, the Chairman and Party secretary of the National Committee of the People's Political Consultative Conference(CPPCC,) as a central figure of influence in the Chinese Communist Party. However, the North foresees Jia's power waning in the Xi Jinping administration and thus shifted its attentions to Zhang as an elite apparatchik liable to support the succession of Kim Jong-un. In 2007, at the time of Kim Jong-un's internal advancement within North Korea, the regime began its maneuvers in earnest.
2012 marks the 100th anniversary of Kim Il-sung's birthday. The year will not just see the full entry onto the public stage of Kim Jong-un but also the commencement of the post Hu Jintao administration in China. It will be led by Xi Jinping, the current top-ranking member of the Secretariat of the Communist Party of China. It is therefore essential that North Korea secure influential support at the very top of the Chinese administration to ensure the smooth succession to power of Kim Jong-un.
According to another high level Chinese source, Zhang Dejiang has Manchurian blood but is officially recorded as a Han Chinese (the largest ethnic group in China.) He attended the Central School of the People and then studied Korean at Yanbian University. Zhang graduated in Politics and Economics at Kim Il-sung University in North Korea and is a fluent Korean speaker. While attending the Central School of the People, he strongly commended the superiority of the Communist Party's dictator leadership and government-led national economic development model. While at Kim Il-sung University he became close to the one now is a close aide of Kim Jong-un and is still in close contact with him today.
Zhang was also instrumental in the establishment of the North Korea-China economic joint agreed Changjitu National Cooperation Zone. China will invest 20 billion won in the zone, which takes in the cities of Changchun, Jilin, and the Tumen River boundary with North Korea, before 2020. The source said that Zhang was the one to have pushed forward this project to involve state enterprise rather than a private business venture, acting as a core ally of N. Korea providing economic help.
North Korea quietly supported Zhang Dejiang's elevation to the member of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China from the sidelines and is particularly invested in his future progress from 2012 onwards.
The source said that South Korea needs, in its establishment of a North Korean policy, to observe closely and respond accordingly to the North's behind the scenes maneuvers in creating long term links with the Chinese Communist Party's influential elite. "South Korea should stop thinking that after an FTA between itself and China that China will automatically shift its sympathies to South Korea when it frames its North Korea policy," warned the source. "South Korea must make concrete preparations."
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