Sorry, China (Screw the Rest of You)
It's not often that you hear the murmur of an apology in Confucian cultures, much less at the highest of political levels. If Kim Jong-Il really has said he is sorry to Beijing, then that indiscates not only a loss of face but some serious leverage on China's part.
Once again, this whole episode appears to be working out in China's favour while the US and others (Japan and Europe too) stand on the sidelines. Yes, of course it's a regional affair, but one suspects that in the CCP there is some considerable glee at the imroved standing of China in the 'international community'. Solving the DPRK problem truly would make China seem a 'responsible partner' to an increasingly overstretched and irrelevant US.
As well as tighter cargo checks at the main border crossing of Dandong, China has ordered at least four banks to freeze money transfers to North Korea. According to the New York Times, it is also threatening to cut low-cost oil supplies in a cross-border pipeline that is thought to provide more than 80% of North Korea's needs.
This leverage appeared to have paid off today when China's special envoy to Pyongyang, Tang Jiaxuan, put a "strong message" to Mr Kim. According to South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper, the North Korean leader expressed remorse for putting China in a difficult situation and demonstrated a willingness to compromise.