China’s new ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, arrived in Washington this week and takes up the key diplomatic post with a notable past of diplomatic activities, as detailed in leaked classified State Department cables from 2006 and 2010.
A review of cables made public by WikiLeaks reveals that Mr. Cui was actively involved in defending China’s arms sales to Iran; once was scolded by senior Communist leaders for an embarrassing security lapse while ambassador to Japan; and has a surprising pro-U.S. position on Korean unification that will likely anger power brokers in China’s pro-North Korean People’s Liberation Army.
According to a Feb. 22, 2010 cable labeled “secret,” Mr. Cui while vice foreign minister told South Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister Chun Yung-woo that China would not be able to stop the collapse of the North Korea regime of Kim Jong-il after he dies.
The South Korean official said Mr. Cui believed Pyongyang “already collapsed economically and would collapse politically in two to three years after the death of Kim Jong-il,” who died in December 2011.
The English-speaking Mr. Cui represents a new generation of more “sophisticated” Chinese officials who once revealed in private conversations that “Korea should be unified under ROK [South Korean] control” because China’s leaders realize the regime in Pyongyang has little value as a buffer state, a view reportedly gaining traction among senior Chinese leaders, the cable says.
Another once-secret cable dated Feb. 12, 2010 reveals that Mr. Cui came under fire for an embarrassing security incident during a visit to Japan by China’s then-vice president, Xi Jinping, when Mr. Cui was China’s ambassador in Tokyo.
According to the cable, Japan’s government declined to upgrade security for the Xi visit in December 2009, and as a result Mr. Xi, now president, was met by anti-China protesters who shouted slogans such as “go home” and “go to hell.”
The incident in Japan caused the Chinese security detail to “become extremely agitated and flustered,” the cable said. As a result, Mr. Cui “was sent back to Beijing for a scolding after Xi’s visit,” the cable said.
Earlier in August 2007, Mr. Cui, then an assistant foreign minister, rejected U.S. requests to end conventional arms sales to Iran, including anti-ship cruise missiles, and defended missile-related transfers to Tehran that Washington said violated U.N. sanctions on Iran.
“Current trade simply fulfills previously signed contracts,” the cable quoted Mr. Cui as stating. Additionally, he said: “We understand U.S. concerns regarding weapons going from Iran to Iraq. China has no intention of facilitating that transfer.”
U.S. military officials later uncovered large numbers of Chinese weapons that were transferred to insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan by Iran.
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