Kim Jong-Il is a Good Drinker

The biggest scandal yet revealed by WikiLeaks comes from the summary of a conversation between Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and PRC State Councilor Dai Bingguo:

Regarding his recent visit to Pyongyang, Dai briefly recounted his two-hour meeting with DPRK leader Kim Jong-il. Dai said he was on relatively familiar terms with Kim, because he had met with Kim on several occasions in his previous role as Director of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee International Liaison Department (CCID). Dai admitted that in contrast with his discussion with Vice FM Kang (see below) his conversation with Kim wasnot as direct and candid and joked that he “did not dare” to be that candid with the DPRK leader. Dai noted that Kim had lost weight when compared to when he last saw him three yearsearlier, but that Kim appeared to be in reasonably good health and still had a “sharp mind.” Kim told Dai that he had hoped to invite the Chinese official to share some liquor and wine, but that because of scheduling problems, he would have to defer the offer to Dai’s next visit to North Korea. Kim Jong-il had a reputation among the Chinese for being “quite a good drinker,” and, Dai said, he had asked Kim if he still drank alcohol. Kim said yes. Dai said he also met briefly with Kim Yong-nam, President of the Supreme People’s Assembly, who invited him to attend the performance of a famous Chinese opera, “The Dream of the Red Chamber.”

For the third time in a row, a WikiLeaks document dump has conclusively demonstrated that an awful lot of US government confidentiality is basically about nothing. There’s no scandal here and there’s no legitimate state secret. It’s just routine for the work done by public servants and public expense in the name of the public to be kept semi-hidden from the public for decades.

Regarding the specific revelation here one can only regret that the author of the memo, US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, is a Mormon and thus perhaps unfamiliar with the nuances of drinking-related terminology. Is the idea here that Kim is a huge drunk, or that Kim has an unusual capacity for holding his liquor? And is that by western standards or merely by the standards of east Asia’s more modest alcohol consumption? The public has a right to know!