Beijing [China], Apr. 19 : China's best-known historian of the Korean War Shen Zhihua has urged Beijing to rethink its friendly policy towards North Korea and asked the leadership to consider extending an olive branch to South Korea.
"If we look at North Korea and South Korea, who is a friend of China and who is an enemy? Outwardly, China and North Korea are allies, while the United States and Japan support South Korea against North Korea.
That's a legacy of the Cold War," The New York Times quoted Zhihua as saying. "But I believe that after decades of contention and shifts in the international landscape, there's long been a fundamental transformation.
My basic conclusion is judging by the current situation, North Korea is China's latent enemy and South Korea could be China's friend," he added.
The war historian noted that North Korea's repeated effort to conduct nuclear tests had invited the wrath of the United States which put China and South Korea's interests in peril.
"The situation now is that each time North Korea stages a nuclear test, the United States increases its military forces in northeast Asia, sending in drones or an aircraft carrier or holding military exercises.
And then the military pressure from the U.S. leads North Korea to stage another nuclear test," Zhihua said. "You stage a test, he adds troops and it keeps escalating. The outcome? The real pressure is felt by China and South Korea, and the ones who ultimately bear the brunt are China and South Korea," he added.
Zhihua further said that China and North Korea interests were at odds since former focuses on achieving stability on its borders while the latter was focussing on manufacturing more nuclear weapons.
"So, putting it objectively, the fundamental interests of China and North Korea are at odds. China's fundamental interest lies in achieving stability on its borders and developing outward. But since North Korea acquired nuclear weapons, that periphery has never been stable, so inevitably Chinese and North Korean interests are at odds," he said.
The historian's comments may raise many eyebrows among the Chinese leadership as Beijing's bond with North Korea was formed even before Mao Zedong's decision in 1950 to send People's Liberation Army soldiers to fight alongside them in the Korean War.
Mao famously said the two sides were "as close as lips and teeth.".