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‘Coup Possible in Pyongyang’

Kim Sue-young / Korea Times | October 23 2006

A ``Beijing-friendly palace coup’’ may happen in North Korea to drive out the North’s ``dear leader’’ Kim Jong-il, a U.S. weekly magazine reported in its latest issue.

Chinese officials used to ``scoff’’ at the idea of effecting Chinese-style regime change in the Stalinist state, but an ``unprecedented debate’’ has taken place over Beijing’s North Korea policies, Newsweek said in its Oct. 30 issue.

Mentioning the stoppage of financial transfers and food exports to North Korea, the magazine backed the possibility of a coup.

Four major Chinese banks halted financial transfers to North Korea last Friday, and China decreased food exports to the isolated regime by two-thirds, the weekly said.

``Among some close advisers to the government, the idea of a Beijing-friendly palace coup has gained new currency,’’ the report said. ``China certainly has the means.’’

The means is the 11,000 barrels of oil China offers the reclusive state every day _ accounting for over 70 percent of Pyongyang’s total energy supply, the magazine said.

Chinese officials have said that they want Pyongyang to return to the six-party talks on its nuclear disarmament, but some scholars, angry at Kim’s recalcitrance, are asking for the government to pull the oil plug instead, the report said.

A former U.S. Pentagon official and Korea watcher said in an interview with Newsweek that the likely pool of moderate North Koreans who could succeed Kim includes Sinophile military officers and technocrats. ``They have come to believe that Chinese-style economic reforms will help transform North Korea,’’ he said.

As for post-Kim Jong-il scenarios, the report said, ``China would prefer North Korea to maintain a friendly, ideally socialist, buffer state on its periphery, which could keep U.S. soldiers based in South Korea at arm’s length.’’

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