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Chinese editor calls for regime change in North Korea

On Wednesday, the Financial Times published an op-ed titled "China should abandon North Korea" by Deng Yuwen, the deputy editor of Study Times, the journal of China's Central Party School. The remarkably strongly written piece calls for China to push for the reunification of the Korean peninsula -- i.e., regime change in North Korea.  

The Central Party School is the most elite school for cadres; Xi Jinping served as president of the school until being appointed chairman of the Communist Party. Deng is relatively low in the party (and party school) hierarchy, but his op-ed is the latest in a series of indications that Beijing might be considering pulling the plug on North Korea.

Shen Dingli, the director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University, published an article in these pages after North Korea's third nuclear test on Feb. 12 arguing that "China has reached a point where it needs to cut its losses and cut North Korea loose."  Jin Qiangyi, director of the Center for North and South Korea Studies at Yanbian University in northeast China, told the New York Times that "[f]or the first time the Chinese government has felt the pressure of public opinion not to be too friendly with North Korea."

In his FT op-ed, Deng argues that Beijing should give up on its erstwhile ally because:

  • A relationship based on ideology -- one of the most commonly stated reasons for China and North Korea's friendship -- "is dangerous," and "although both countries are socialist, their differences are much larger than those between China and the west."
  • North Korea is more of a liability than a buffer to China.
  • North Korea will not reform; if Kim Jong Un tries to, he could be overthrown. "Why should China maintain relations with a regime and a country that will face failure sooner or later?"
  • North Korea is pulling away from Beijing -- and Kim might even use his nuclear weapons to blackmail China.

"The best way of giving up on Pyongyang," Deng writes, "is to take the initiative to facilitate North Korea's unification with South Korea," which, while still very unlikely, would open a whole new era in East Asia.

AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIA KNS

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The Kims' long love affair with basketball

By now, you probably know that North Korea's Kim Jong Un is a "die-hard basketball fan" who told former Chicago Bulls player Dennis Rodman he had a "friend for life" in the Hermit Kingdom. (VICE magazine has just released photos, including the one above, of Rodman and Kim taking in a basketball game between members of the Harlem Globetrotters and North Korea's "Dream Team" in Pyongyang.)

But being a "die-hard fan" can mean something different when you're the supreme leader of a country, and both Kim and his father Kim Jong Il -- also a legendary NBA enthusiast -- have taken their basketball fandom to impressive heights in the decades they've controlled North Korea. For an excellent primer on the special relationship between the Kim family and the NBA, see this 2006 San Diego Union-Tribune article. Some choice bits from the piece:

  • Kim Jong Il is believed to have installed regulation basketball courts at most of his palaces, and a library with videos of almost every game Michael Jordan ever played for the Bulls.
  • Chinese media report that North Korea has developed its own scoring system for the game: three points for a dunk, four points for a three pointer that doesn't touch the rim, and eight points for a basket scored in the final three seconds. (This rule is ... intriguing? The endings of North Korean basketball games must be cutthroat!) A missed free throw means minus-one point.
  • Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in 2000 brought Kim Jong Il an NBA basketball signed by Michael Jordan as a goodwill gift. The North Koreans later asked Jordan if he would make a trip to Pyongyang to meet Kim; Jordan declined.

In 2009, the Washington Post reported that Kim Jong Un inherited his father's love of the game: Classmates remember a student believed to be Kim (he went to school in Switzerland under a pseudonym)who  was "fiercely competitive" on the court, and both "tough and fast."

Here's the lingering question: Was the exhibition game that Rodman and Kim attended today played by North Korean or NBA rules?

(h/t: NK News)

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