“Leasing of North Korean Port Arouses Suspicion”: Huanqiu Shibao on China’s Ten-Year Lease on DPRK Rajin

张培 , et. al., “租借朝鲜港口遭猜忌 韩媒称中国正加速进入日本海,” 环球时报“ 3月10日2010年 [Zhang Pei, et. al., "Leasing of North Korean Port Arouses Suspicion: South Korean Media States that China Will Quickly Enter the Sea of Japan," Huanqiu Shibao (Global Times Chinese) March 10 2010 [translation by Adam Cathcart].

据3月10日出版的《环球时报》报道,“中国100多年来首次在日本海拥有直接立足点”、“中国开辟日本海通道”,9日,中国租借朝鲜罗津港的消息迅速 使外电得出上述轰动性的结论,中国人对此将信将疑。韩国《世界日报》报道称,中国政府正在加速进入日本海,但中国进入日本海的通道一直被俄罗斯和朝鲜堵 住,因而进入日本海是中国的一个历史夙愿。On March 10, “Global Times” reported: “For the first time in 100 years, China has a direct foothold on the Sea of Japan” and “China has opened a channel to the Sea of Japan.  On March 9, news quickly spread that China had leased North Korea’s Rajin port, prompting foreign media to rash and sensational conclusions toward which the Chinese people have skepticism. A report by South Korea’s “World News” stated that the Chinese government is accelerating its entry into the Sea of Japan.  But [what South Korean media fails to understand is that] China’s passage to the Sea of Japan has long been blocked [堵] by Russia and North Korea, and therefore passage to the Sea of Japan is a long-cherished wish in China’s history.

《世界日报》介绍说,清朝因1858年同沙俄签订的《瑗珲条约》、1860年的《北京条约》丧失了100万平方公里的土地,也丢掉了所有日本海沿岸的土地。 中华人民共和国成立后,中国政府一直强烈要求朝鲜和苏联赋予[fu4yu3] 中国从珲春到日本海的出海权,即所谓的“建港出海”战略,但遭遇[zao1yu4] 朝鲜和苏联看不见的牵制,苏联和朝鲜相互找借口拒绝中国的要求。The “World News” introduced [the subject] by saying that because of the Yuanhui Treaty signed between the Qing Dynastyand Tsarist Russia in 1858 and the 1860 “Beijing Treaty,” [China] lost 100 million square kilometers of land and lost all territory abutting the Sea of Japan.  After the founding of The People’s Republic of China, the Chinese government directly and strongly demanded that North Korea and the Soviet Union confer to China the right of access to the Sea of Japan from Hunchun.  This strategy, known as “harbor building and sea access,” encountered invisible impediments [看不见的牵制] from North Korea and the Soviet Union, who each found an excuse to reject China’s requests.

The article then goes on to describe the frustrations of trying to develop the port in 1993 and then describes some of the geographical advantages of now being able to export Chinese products from the North Korean harbor:

于是,中国从1993年开始将建港出海战略转变成“借港出海”战略。由于俄罗斯的牵制和高额费用,中国开始寻找新出口,而罗津正是理想港口。从地理位置上看,黑吉两省距离日本海仅一步之遥。目前,从图们江口到兴凯湖畔的东北部边境线是我国距日本海最近的地段,最近直线距离只有4公里,从防川至图们江入海口15公里,东宁距离日本海直线距离也不过50公里。

The penultimate sentence, however, is probably the most interesting:

《环球时报》记者前不久曾到过图们江口那片中国离日本海最近的地区,在那里,作为一个中国人,你能感到有些憋屈。 A “Global Times” reporter recently visited the region near the mouth of the Tumen River, the place where China comes closest to the Sea of Japan.  [Standing] there, as a Chinese person, you can choke a bit on the injustice .

Translator’s Notes: I actually rode with the same taxi driver (surnamed Tang; the man is also a stellar photographer) who drove the above-said “Global Times’” reporter down to Fangchuan last July.  The funny thing is, part of the reason the reporter went to Fangchuan was to talk to soldiers at the border post about the impacts of the North Korean nuclear test as well as the prospects for opening up to the Sea of Japan.  The other thing that comes to mind when one travels to Fangchuan (and its gateway Hunchun), both of which I went to in July, is how the shadow of Russia and the treaties of the mid-19th century really do bear down on China in this region and render North Korea into merely an adjunct or a bit player in a much larger drama.  The narrative of national redemption and restoration into which this article taps has a long pedigree and seeks, like many rhetorical and visual devices in China, to recreate the type of breakthrough of consciousness experienced by leaders of Zhou Enlai’s generation when they recognized China’s weakness.  For Zhou Enlai, it was standing on the battlefields of Liaoyang of the Russo-Japanese War, while for Lu Xun it was watching filmstrips of Japanese troops decapitating Chinese prisoners.  What is your moment of consciousness, Chinese?  Perhaps it could be found by traversing the North Korean frontier.  However, to get into the game of territorial reparations or the rectification of injustices along that frontier, is, after all, a dangerous and nigh-inextinguishable flame.  Who originally owned the islands, after all, upon which North Korea is now pledged to build a special economic zone near Dandong?  And who owns Mount Paektu?

Fortunately there is a catch-all solution in this case: blame the Japanese media for overreacting.

Hunchun's Trilingual Market Trifecta -- photo by Adam Cathcart; click picture for more of my photos of the tri-border region

Huanqiu Netizens Sound Off on the City of Portland

As of 5:07 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, it seems this story (described in a post below) has picked up 318 comments on the Huanqiu BBS alone.  How nice to know that people care so much.  Among the comments are plenty of the usual suspects (“Those who support Tibet’s independence should be nuked,” “Give Alaska independence,” etc.), but I prefer the quizzical:

3月10日设立为“西藏自觉日”(Tibet Awareness Day)。谁翻译的?

KCNA Roundup

The Korean Central News Agency is North Korea’s Xinhua, that is, an organ for propaganda and news.

This past week has seen a number of significant themes emerging.

What struck me as most unusual was this specific refutation:

CPRK Rebukes Japanese Sankei’s False Report about DPRK

Pyongyang, March 4 (KCNA) — A spokesman for the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea gave the following answer to a question raised by KCNA Thursday as regards an extremely mean and clumsy misinformation released by the Japanese Sankei Shimbun recently to hurt the DPRK:

On March 3 the paper posted on its Internet a report that there took place a “food robbery” in the northern region of the DPRK, claiming that the Information Center for Solidarity with NK Intellectuals, made up of such human scum as traitors and defectors to the south, obtained the “information from local inhabitants.” The information center is under the patronage of the south Korean puppet authorities.

What is more intolerable is that the above-said paper even asserted that the incident occurred on February 16 [e.g., Kim Jong Il's birthday] in a bid to make the story about the “incident” sound politically plausible.

What Sankei Shimbun reported is a sheer fabrication. No train loaded with food had ever passed through the said area the day it claimed the “incident” took place and before and after that day. [Ed.: Isn't this a tacit admission that Kim Jong Il's birthday didn't result in much food getting into people's hands?] Moreover, there occurred no such incident as “food robbery.”

… [The] great irony is that the Sankei Shimbun is so nervous about gathering misinformation about the DPRK that it chose to echo the nonsensical talk made by human scum, lost to shame. But no one would lend an ear to the above-said misinformation. Those keen on the smear campaign will have to pay a dear price for their wrong doings.

Clearly word is spreading within North Korea that the rest of us, that is, the international community, are getting news about what is actually happening in the DPRK and, moreover, that the North Korean government is becoming more publicly concerned about the normalization of the sharing of information (for pay or otherwise) via cellular phone.

After the opening of Rajin port to China for the next ten years, it remains to be seen to what extent the Korean Workers’ Party promotes economic development in North Hamgyong province.  Here in an account of his visit to Chongjin we get some sense that Kim Jong Il (and his retinue) seems focused for once on the needs of the extreme northeast.

There are all kinds of dispatches about the big Viylon factory shindig in Hamhung, but I recommend reading North Korea Leadership Watch for the executive summaries, which have a way of cutting through the pom-pom opacity of the KCNA reports.  It seems that Kim Jong Il brought almost 2,400 medals and commendations with him to the city, but only about 75 watches and no mention of food gifts.  And don’t miss the must-read missive by that crafty and headstrong defector Kang Chol Hwan, who writes in yesterday’s Chosun Ilbo that “Kim Jong Il’s Visit to Hamhung is a Bad Sign.”

Do stories about land reform under Kim Il Song in 1946 indicate that the DPRK is considering liberalization of state control of land, or, at the very least, tacit approval of the proliferation of private farming plots?  Then again, when Kim Il Song is in the same week quoted as saying the following, you wonder why you bother wondering:

Reading a regrettable mind on his face the President recalled an old saying that if subjects worked hard the king would feel at ease and said he was a subject of the people and the latter was the king so he should work hard to make the people live an easy life.

In this very interesting dispatch regarding a seminar in Tokyo about forced labor of Koreans during WWII (including 10,000 killed in the firebombing of Tokyo in March 1945), North Korean media seem to be holding out an olive branch to Japan while looking at the Second World War in a slightly different light.  As a country that knows something visceral about having civilians bombed, this kind of linkage in the North Korean context isn’t something that should be taken lightly.

Then again, when North Korean authors get their digits wrong and accuse “Unit 713″ (rather than the proper “Unit 731″) of burying Koreans in Shinjuku Ward in Tokyo, you know the prevailing strangeness is unlikely to clear.

Fortunately things are done more carefully on the succession front, where more hot air blows:

When the young people become standard-bearers in the advance for a great surge and work hard with youthful vigor, their hearts afire, our country would leap higher and faster, translating the noble intention and desire of President Kim Il Sung into a brilliant reality.

The Korean youth are loyal vanguard who devotedly defends the headquarters of the revolution in the van of the advance for a great surge, ranks of brave fighters who make breakthrough of advance on the most difficult and labor-consuming fronts in building an economic power and pace-setters and pioneers in pushing back the frontiers of science who powerfully demonstrate the dignity of Songun Korea with great scientific and technological achievements.

March 8 was women’s day in the DPRK, and women are doing most of the backbreaking labor (and providing the maximum allowed capitalist initiative) in the state.  Therefore one wonders how women in North Korea feel when one of the main editorials for Women’s Day ends thusly: “The Korean women are leading a worthwhile life with due status in society thanks to Kim Jong Il, who bestows all benefits on them.”

And, in case you were thinking of taking a vacation in North Korea or swimming in the Yalu once the ice-chunks clear, please consider the following:

Fighter-bombers and pursuit-assault planes are flying into south Korea one after another from their bases in Japan, and flying corps of the U.S. 7th Air Force present in south Korea are staging madcap exercises for intensive strikes at targets in the depth of the DPRK, close air support, air battle and naval support in coordinated operations with flying corps of the puppet air force, inciting a war atmosphere.

This evermore undisguised adventurous saber-rattling is creating such tense situation on the Korean Peninsula that a war may break out anytime [ed.: just in case we didn't get the point in the previous sentence?].

The Supreme Command of the KPA issued the following order to cope with the grave situation prevailing in the country:

1. The men and officers of the KPA on the frontline and coastline and those standing on air guard should reliably defend the outposts of the country so as to repel at a single stroke any attempt of the aggressors to make a preemptive strike

2. The units of the three services of the KPA should keep themselves fully ready to go into action in order to blow up the citadel of aggressors once the order is issued.

3. All the men and officers of the KPA and the members of the Korean People’s Security Forces, the Worker-Peasant Red Guards and the Young Red Guards should undergo intensive training in the spirit of Mt. Paektu in each drill ground with the will to wipe out the enemy and keep themselves highly alerted to mercilessly crush the aggressors should they intrude into the inviolable sky, land and sea of the DPRK even 0.001 mm.

4. All the people across the country should make a great leap forward in the general charge to build a thriving socialist nation, their hearts burning with hatred against the enemies, each holding a rifle in one hand and a hammer or a sickle in the other.

The order of the KPA Supreme Command is the most just measure for self-defence to devotedly protect the headquarters of the revolution and the prosperity of the country and the eternal happiness of the people from the reckless moves of the war maniacs for aggression.

And here is a lesson in globalization for you: This dispatch describes how Kim Jong Il went to Sinuiju in the year 2000 and “with a gloomy expression,” said” it is more important at present to supply shoes to local people than to export them to other countries.”  Dear Leader!  Sure this reassures us that you aren’t going to sell out the North Korean economy to the Chinese, but, as for those sneakers, to where would you export them?  In neighboring Dandong and Liaoning province, PRC, the most logical export market for goods manufactured in Sinuiju, North Korea’s competition for the sneaker market is now LeBron James.  Nobody beats the King.

Kim Jong Il at Sinuiju Footwear Factory, Nov. 2009, via Straits Times

LeBron James throws it down against South Korea -- God only knows what he would do single-handed to the KPA Basketball Squad; none of the backboards at KPA camp posts along the Chinese-North Korean border had actual hoops, as they had probably been removed for resale as scrap

Fighter-bombers and pursuit-assault planes are flying into south Korea one after another from their bases in Japan, and flying corps of the U.S. 7th Air Force present in south Korea are staging madcap exercises for intensive strikes at targets in the depth of the DPRK, close air support, air battle and naval support in coordinated operations with flying corps of the puppet air force, inciting a war atmosphere.

This evermore undisguised adventurous saber-rattling is creating such tense situation on the Korean Peninsula that a war may break out anytime.

The Supreme Command of the KPA issued the following order to cope with the grave situation prevailing in the country:

1. The men and officers of the KPA on the frontline and coastline and those standing on air guard should reliably defend the outposts of the country so as to repel at a single stroke any attempt of the aggressors to make a preemptive strike.

2. The units of the three services of the KPA should keep themselves fully ready to go into action in order to blow up the citadel of aggressors once the order is issued.

3. All the men and officers of the KPA and the members of the Korean People’s Security Forces, the Worker-Peasant Red Guards and the Young Red Guards should undergo intensive training in the spirit of Mt. Paektu in each drill ground with the will to wipe out the enemy and keep themselves highly alerted to mercilessly crush the aggressors should they intrude into the inviolable sky, land and sea of the DPRK even 0.001 mm.

4. All the people across the country should make a great leap forward in the general charge to build a thriving socialist nation, their hearts burning with hatred against the enemies, each holding a rifle in one hand and a hammer or a sickle in the other.

The order of the KPA Supreme Command is the most just measure for self-defence to devotedly protect the headquarters of the revolution and the prosperity of the country and the eternal happiness of the people from the reckless moves of the war maniacs for aggression.