It may not be much, and it may just reflect the need for Chinese leader Hu Jintao to make the right polite kind of noises while being hosted at the nuclear summit in Seoul, but there's some indication that the pressure on China on the subject of North Korean defectors, aggravated by the recent fiasco over the short-lived nuclear moratorium deal, may be pushing Beijing away from its usual automatic support for Pyongyang.
North Korean defectors hiding out the South Korean Consulate in Beijing will soon be able to come here [to South Korea], a diplomatic source in Seoul said Monday. The source said after a meeting between Chinese President Hu Jintao and President Lee Myung-bak the chances are good that China will let the North Korean defectors who have been hiding out at the consulate for almost three years go.
The source added they should be able to discreetly board a flight to South Korea at the end of this month or early next month.
Hu during the summit with Lee at Cheong Wa Dae on Monday said China "is taking a lot of interest and giving consideration to the issue of North Korean defectors and respects [South Korea's] the position. It will strive to ensure that the issue is resolved smoothly." That appears to confirm hopes that Beijing will allow the defectors hiding out in South Korean missions in China to come to South Korea.
Chinese President Hu Jintao urged North Korea Monday not to proceed with its planned launch of a long-range rocket next month, saying North Korea is "wrong to launch a satellite and advised to give up." He also said Pyongyang should focus on improving its people’s livelihood.
In comments made in his summit talks with President Lee Myung-bak at the latter`s office in Seoul, Hu also said, “(The Chinese government) has been closely communicating with North Korea on this issue several times,” adding, “We`re making efforts to persuade the North to give up (the launch).”
Since Beijing had not openly expressed its opposition to Pyongyang`s previous launches of long-range rockets, Hu`s demand that the North change its priorities and focus on improving its people’s livelihood is considered unusual.
China, which had sided with North Korea on its 2010 attack on the South Korean naval corvette Cheonan and Yeonpyeong Island, has thus made a unanimous voice with South Korea for the first time in years.
By the usual standards of Chinese diplomacy over matters relating to North Korea, that's remarkably blunt. Could this mark the beginnings of a shift in Chinese attitudes towards their troublesome neighbour?