How much aid does China give to North Korea? How much leverage does that aid give China over North Korea's behavior? What leverage does China really want over North Korea and toward what ends? Alexandr Nemets and John L. Scherer provide aid figures from 2000.
Beijing increased its economic support of Pyongyang following the May 2000 meeting. Exports from China to North Korea - primarily crude oil, oil products, grain and food items - jumped from around $330 million in 1999 to a little more than $450 million in 2000. Chinese imports from North Korea decreased from nearly $42 million to $37 million. Exports minus imports amount to subsidies from Beijing to Pyongyang, and these grew from $288 million to $413 million.
The CIA World Factbook 2002 provides no amount for Chinese aid to North Korea.
$NA; note - nearly $300 million in food aid alone from US, South Korea, Japan, and EU in 2001 plus much additional aid from the UN and non-governmental organizations
The Korea Times reports China supplies most of North Korea's energy and almost half its food.
One dilemma for Beijing is that should not loosen its grip over Pyongyang because that would weaken its influence in the region. Bearing this in mind, China cut off its crude oil supply to the North for three days just before the trilateral talks in March, a reportedly diplomatic warning. It supplies 70 percent of North Korea’s energy and 40 percent of its food.
As for why is China giving North Korea aid: My guess is that they are doing it simply to prop up the regime. They are not gaining any leverage over the North Koreans that restrains the Pyongyang regime's behavior. Writing for The Christian Science Monitor Jasper Becker reports that scholars trolling thru Eastern European and Soviet archives from the Cold War era found Eastern bloc countries gained very little leverage over North Korean behavior in exchange for their aid.
"It shows how dependent North Korea has always been, and how extremely skillful it has always been at getting enough aid," says Kathryn Weathersby, who runs the Korea Initiative as part of the Woodrow Wilson Center's Cold War International History Project in Washington.
"It also shows that over the decades, China and Russia gave a lot of aid but gained very limited leverage," she says.
Only a cessation of aid would give China a significant amount of leverage over North Korea. But to get that leverage the Chinese would probably have to allow the situation in North Korea to become desperate. China seems unlikely to do that.
Time magazine has an excellent article on what the US and allies are trying to do to cut off weapons parts sources, weapons exports, and other aspects of North Korean trade. Toward the end of the article there's a telling comment about China's refusal to stop the North Korean arms trade flights over China.
Ultimately, choking off North Korea's trade will depend upon participation of its two traditional allies and major trading partners—China and Russia. Senior U.S. officials, according to sources, are constantly wheedling China to deny overflight rights to suspicious planes exiting North Korea, without success. Last week, China and Russia blocked a proposed condemnation of North Korea's nuclear arms program by the U.N. Security Council.
China is not just trying to prop up the North Korean regime by providing aid. The Chinese are actively facilitating North Korea's arms trade. Since that trade appears to include North Korean assistance to the Iranian nuclear weapons development program the Beijing regime is effectively conspiring with North Korea to help Iran develop nuclear weapons.
The United States has responded by forming an 11 nation group called the Proliferation Security Initiative made up of Australia, the US, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Poland, Portugal, Japan and the Netherlands. By the way, what country (aside, of course, from China) is notably missing from that list? South Korea won't join the Proliferation Security Initiative. (joking aside to Robert Koehler: Yes, South Korea is not on friendly nations lists that I make). Well, Proliferation Security Initiative needs to be able to shut down North Korea's arms and arms technology trade. But if the US wants to proceed according to international law (at least according to international law as assorted US allies interpret it) some US allies such as Australia would prefer UN backing for sanctions. Of course, China and probably Russia as well would block a Security Council Resolution. Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has floated the idea of creating a multi-country agreement outside of UN jurisdiction that would give an appearance of international law to a sanctions regime against North Korea.
"We need to work through a lot of that and see whether there's a need to change international law or whether we could put together some sort of international convention that countries would voluntarily sign up to and having signed up to the convention would take on certain obligations to address the problem of this trade," he said.
US Under Secretary of State John Bolton is talking a tougher game.
JOHN BOLTON, US UNDER-SECRETARY FOR ARMS CONTROL: We want to let the proliferators know that we're going to go beyond words and treaties and agreements. We will take action to defend ourselves against the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
One incredibly handy aspect of US air bases in Central Asia is that US aircraft could probably intercept aircraft travelling between North Korea and Iran.
The plans under discussion could even eventually lead to the scenario of PSI coalition members forcing suspicious aircraft to divert course and land.
The only possible obstacle might be Pakistan. Flights could follow a path that passes directly from China to Pakistan. But if Pakistan will let the US intercept flights bound for Iran then the North Korean airborne trade with Iran could be cut off.
Bottom line: China and South Korea aren't going to help. The US and some allies may move without their acquiesence and without UN blessings to do air and sea-based interception of North Korean trade headed for the Middle East.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2003 July 09 07:36 PM Korea|