The Australian is reporting that Beijing appears to be considering backing a coup against Kim Jong Il. There have been unprecedented criticisms against North Korea's leader allowed on the internet ever since the nuclear test.
THE Chinese are openly debating "regime change" in Pyongyang after last week's nuclear test by their confrontational neighbour.
Diplomats in Beijing said at the weekend that China and all the major US allies believed North Korea's claim that it had detonated a nuclear device. US director of national intelligence John Negroponte circulated a report that radiation had been detected at a site not far from the Chinese border.
The US may have employed highly classified satellite technology to detect tiny leaks of gas or elements associated with nuclear detonation, according to a diplomatic source in the Chinese capital. This would explain Washington's reluctance to explain the findings in public.
The Washington Times disclosed that US spy satellites photographed North Koreans playing volleyball just a few hundred metres from a test site tunnel after the underground explosion.
The Chinese Government has been ultra-cautious in its reaction. However, since Monday, Foreign Ministry officials have started to make a point of distinguishing between the North Korean people and their Government in conversations with diplomats.
Ahead of yesterday's Security Council vote, some in Beijing argued against heavy sanctions on North Korea for fear that these would destroy what remains of a pro-Chinese "reformist" faction inside the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"In today's DPRK Government, there are two factions, sinophile and royalist," one Chinese analyst wrote online. "The objective of the sinophiles is reform, Chinese-style, and then to bring down Kim Jong-il's royal family. That's why Kim is against reform. He's not stupid."
More than one Chinese academic agreed that China yearned for an uprising similar to the one that swept away the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989 and replaced him with communist reformers and generals. The Chinese made an intense political study of the Romanian revolution and even questioned president Ion Iliescu, who took over, about how it was done and what roles were played by the KGB and by Russia.
This would be huge if it turns out to be true. It would also explain the sudden burst of fence building activity I noted earlier today. The article notes that details have suddenly been emerging about a number of failed coup attempts against Kim in recent years that have been previously unreported in the West. That and the sudden lack of interest in reining in vitriolic criticism of a close ally on the internet may actually mean there really is something going on here.