Korean People’s Army Contacts with the Chinese Military

By | August 21, 2017 | No Comments

Kang Sun-nam, left, with Chinese Ambassador Li Jinjun in Pyongyang, July 2017. | Image: PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs

In recent months, much ink has been spilled about two things in a spirit of general consternation. First, that the North Korean military machine is moving forward without any sense of consequence for provocative language or actions; and secondly, that China might have to intimidate North Korea militarily with border exercises, coordination with the U.S. military, or entry into a broader conflict. We have also seen discussion, stimulated by Chinese official media itself, over the meaning of North Korea’s mutual defense treaty with China.

The working assumption in all of these writings appears to be that North Korean military brass do not have a working channel of communication or regular dialogue with Chinese comrades. A recent Channel News Asia interview was explicit in this regard:

But this ignores two documented instances of contact, namely Ci Guowei’s meeting at the North Korean Embassy in Beijing in February, and the following event.

General Kang Sun-nam, the lead North Korean visitor to the Embassy, appears to have been elevated to the Central Committee of the Korean Workers’ Party at the last Party Congress in May 2016, and possibly met Kim Jong-un at a military drill in December 2015.

Chinese Embassy in Korea to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Chinese People ‘s Liberation Army (中国驻朝鲜大使馆举行庆祝中国人民解放军建军90周年招待会), PRC Embassy in Pyongyang website, July 26, 2017. 

On the evening of July 25, the Chinese Embassy in North Korea hosted a reception to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.  In attendence were Chinese Ambassador to the DPRK Li Jinjun (李进军), Chinese Defense Attache Yang Xuguang (杨旭光) and other diplomats from the Embassy, the deputy minister of the North Korean People’s Armed Forces (朝鲜人民武力省副相) Kang sun-nam (姜顺男/강순남) and other members from the DPRK armed forces and DPRK foreign ministry and other departments. Representatives from other embassies in North Korea as well as their defence attaches and representatives from international agences also joined, as did the working group for the management and protection of the memorials for the martyrs of the Chinese People’s Volunteers, journalists based in North Korea, and a delegations visiting the DPRK from the Committee for the Praise of Heroic Chinese Martyrs (中华英烈褒扬促进会) and the China Social Welfare Foundation (中国社会福利基金会).

A reception was held to celebrate the “Glorious Brigade” photo exhibition commemorating the 90th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army, and to view the documentary film entitled “Today’s Chinese Army in 2017.” Before the reception, Ambassador Li Jinjun met with General Kang and other important North Korean principals (朝方主要来宾).

The Chinese Defense Attache in the DPRK Yang Xuguang delivered a speech which looked back at the glorious history of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) over the past 90 years, introducing the important progress gained in China’s national defense construction and military reforms in the new era (新时期中国国防建设和军队改革取得的重要进展), stressing that China will unswervingly follow the road of peaceful development and pursue an independent, autonomous, and peaceful foreign policy while pursuing a national defense policy that is defensive in nature (奉行独立自主的和平外交政策和防御性国防政策). The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is always a firm force in safeguarding world peace and will continue to make positive contributions to promoting the development of China-DPRK relations and safeguarding regional peace and stability.

The guests warmly congratulated the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and wished China to achieve greater success in national defense and army building.

Source: Chinese Embassy in Korea to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Chinese People ‘s Liberation Army (中国驻朝鲜大使馆举行庆祝中国人民解放军建军90周年招待会), PRC Embassy in Pyongyang website, July 26, 2017. Translation by Adam Cathcart