Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan hinted that the South Korea might allow for an “interim entity” if the North collapsed and said China’s role should be considered when he talked with a top U.S. diplomat, according to a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable dating from before his term as minister.
The diplomatic cable in question was disclosed by Aftenposten, Norway’s largest newspaper which claims to have WikiLeaks’ purported 250,000 confidential U.S. Embassy cables.
In a cable dated on July 24, 2009, Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, met with Kim Sung-hwan, then senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs and national security, on July 20, and discussed a scenario for the North’s post-collapse period.
The classified document, written by Kathleen Stephens, the U.S. ambassador in Seoul, states that Kim told Campbell the North Korean regime could “hold on for sometime” after the death of Kim Jong-il.
“On a possible North Korean government collapse, Kim said even if something happens to Kim Jong-il, the regime could continue for sometime. Kim analyzed Kim Jong-il’s decision to appear in public since May in obvious poor health as a warning to North Koreans to prepare for change,” the cable says.
On possible post-regime collapse scenario, Kim Sung-hwan also said that, according to the South Korean Constitution, North Korea is part of the Republic of Korea.
“Some scholars believe that if the North collapses, some type of ‘interim entity’ will have to be created to provide local governing and control travel of North Korean citizens,” the cable quotes Kim as saying.
Notable is the comment related to Kim Jong-il’s succession plan: “ROK intelligence sources have indicated that Kim Jong-il is trying to slow down the succession process. While it is uncertain if the DPRK leadership will accept Kim Jong-un as the ‘heir,’ there is always the possibility of someone else being appointed ‘regent’ until he comes of age.”
Kim, currently foreign minister of South Korea, also said that China’s reaction needs to be considered and substantial international assistance will be required if North Korea collapses. “Kim noted the benefits of ROK-Japan-U.S. trilateral cooperation, but stressed the need to get China to discuss contingency planning,” the cable says.