Jang's execution bodes ill for China

20131224_JangSongThaek_Reuters.jpg

Jang's execution bodes ill for China
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his uncle Jang Song Thaek leaving a military parade in Pyongyang.

The execution of Jang Song Thaek, the No. 2 man in North Korea, took Beijing by surprise and will adversely affect bilateral relations. Beijing's displeasure is expressed through the publication of a detailed account of Jang's brutal execution in Wen Wei Po, its official mouthpiece, in Hong Kong, on Dec 12.

According to the report, unlike previous executions of political prisoners which were carried out by firing squads with machine guns, Jang was stripped naked and thrown into a cage, along with his five closest aides. Then 120 hounds, starved for three days, were allowed to prey on them until they were completely eaten up. This is called "quan jue", or execution by dogs.

The report said the entire process lasted for an hour, with Mr Kim Jong Un, the supreme leader in North Korea, supervising it along with 300 senior officials.

The horrifying report vividly depicted the brutality of the young North Korean leader. The fact that it appeared in a Beijing- controlled newspaper showed that China no longer cares about its relations with the Kim regime.

Two days later, the Global Times, associated with the People's Daily, a Chinese Communist Party organ, followed up with a sternly worded editorial saying that the abrupt political change epitomised the backwardness of the North Korean political system. It warned the Chinese government not to coddle North Korea any longer, saying that the majority of Chinese were extremely disgusted with the Kim regime.

The incendiary story, plus the stern editorial, provided a measure of the extent of Beijing's loathing, which is quite understandable. In purging a top official known for his close ties with Beijing in such a brutal manner, Pyongyang did not hide its antagonism towards China.

The official litany of Jang's treason implicated China three times. Jang was accused of underselling coal and other natural resources for which China was virtually the sole customer. He was also charged with "selling off the land of Rason economic and trade zone to a foreign country for a period of five decades under the pretext of paying debts". Finally, he was accused of selling precious metals, thus disrupting the country's financial stability. In fact, China purchased some of North Korea's gold reserves several months ago.

He was also accused of aiding Chinese businessmen in securing low prices for North Korean goods and commodities.

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