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China less worried over nuclear N. Korea than losing buffer: document.

SINGAPORE, Nov. 30 Kyodo

Singaporean elder statesman Lee Kuan Yew believes China is less worried about North Korea going nuclear than the prospect of losing it as a buffer state, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable leaked to the online whistleblower WikiLeaks.

Lee, a former prime minister and now a senior adviser in the Singapore Cabinet, expressed the view in talks with U.S. Deputy Secretary James Steinberg on May 30 last year during an annual regional security summit held in Singapore. The talks took place soon after North Korea had conducted its second nuclear test.

Lee told Steinberg that ''the Chinese do not want North Korea to have nuclear weapons. At the same time, the Chinese do not want North Korea, which China sees as a buffer state, to collapse,'' the cable said.

China's concern is that South Korea ''would take over in the North and China would face a U.S. presence at its border.''

''If China has to choose, Beijing sees a North Korea with nuclear weapons as less bad than a North Korea that has collapsed,'' the cable said.

Lee told Steinberg that he believes Japan may well go nuclear, and that the prospect of Japan with nuclear weapons is less bad in China's view than losing North Korea as a buffer state.

The document mentioned that a top Chinese military official, Ma Xiaotian, had told Lee that North Korea can survive on its own, and Lee interpreted this as meaning that even if China cut off aid, North Korea's leadership can still survive.

Lee said the Chinese take a long-term view, believing that within a few years, North Korea's current leadership will be gone and there will be a new leadership with new thinking, but there will still be a North Korea, according to the document.

The cable quoted Lee as saying he will be surprised if North Korea agrees to give up its nuclear weapons, saying that Pyongyang might give up a first-strike capacity but want nuclear weapons to counter any U.S. pressure for regime change.

Lee believes, the cable said, that South Korea is not eager for immediate reunification with North Korea after seeing what happened with German unification, as there is nothing there other than a military organization in the North.

Lee told Steinberg that China wants to help the United States advance common objectives but does not want South Korea to take over the North, the cable said.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Geographic Code:9SOUT
Date:Dec 6, 2010
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