2003 September 09 Tuesday
China Blames US For Failure Of North Korea Talks

A cheeky statement from Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi reveals that he has a low assessment of the Bush Administration's ability to recognize obvious rivals and enemies who seek to undermine US attempts stop North Korean WMD proliferation.

BEIJING, Sept. 3 -- China expressed dissatisfaction today with the U.S. position on North Korea's nuclear weapons program taken at last week's six-party talks in Beijing and said the next round of negotiations would depend on the United States.

A Chinese official elaborated on statements made by Wang Yi, China's vice foreign minister and the host of last week's talks, who told reporters Monday in Manila that he considered the United States the "main obstacle" to settling the nuclear issue peacefully.

Attempts to stop North Korea's nuclear weapons program peacefully face two main obstacles: China and South Korea. Both countries prop up North Korea economically. Both operate to protect North Korea from American diplomatic and economic pressure. If the Bush Administration had any guts we'd see the White House Press Secretary reading out a statement that "China is the main obstacle for settling the North Korean nuclear weapons program issue peacefuly". But that is too much to expect from the Bush Administration.

Between China and South Korea China is obviously the worse obstacle to US ambitions to rein in North Korea as China uses North Korea to defeat general American anti-proliferation efforts.

U.S. officials said the intelligence community has determined that China and North Korea have cooperated in the production and delivery of components for missile and WMD programs to a range of Middle East clients. They said in many cases China, which last year announced export controls on military and dual-use technologies, has produced the components and exported them through North Korea to avoid U.S. sanctions.

Now, wouldn't it be great for the US leadership to state the obvious and to tell the American public that China is a promoter of nuclear, missile, and other forms of weapons proliferation? That is too much to expect of the hapless Bush Administration. In the face of all this America's clueless Secretary of State Colin Powell thinks US relations with China are just great.

Citing shared concerns about North Korea's nuclear weapons programs and other issues, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Friday U.S. relations with China are at their highest point in more than 30 years.

Statements like Powell's are one of the sources of my pessimism with regard to efforts to stop North Korea's nuclear program.

On the bright side, there is one way this crisis will not get worse: at least former president Jimmy Carter is going to stay out of it.

Traveling on an agenda promoting aid to Africa, he said he had no plan to repeat his 1994 trip to Pyongyang, which opened paths to the first nuclear agreement with North Korea.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 September 09 09:34 AM  Korea

Bryan said at September 16, 2003 7:09 AM:


I've been wondering what you think about the Proliferation Security Initiative. No one (besides me) is talking about it--yet it may be the most important development vis a vis North Korea in several years. It may also help explain why China became so petulent after the last round of talks--we have formed a new security club that doesn't include them, and could be used against them down the road.

Randall Parker said at September 16, 2003 10:19 AM:


I've talked about it several times. You can find all my references to the PSI here.

In a nutshell: it is good that the US is pursuing it and getting other countries to sign up. But we still haven't reached the point where the rubber meets the road. Will the PSI ever be used to go and intercept and search North Korean ships? Or are all the countries involved just willing to bluff but not do anything else? If high seas interceptions start happening will all the ships be found to be intercepted?

Also, there is still the air corridor across China to the Middle East. As long as North Korea has other ways to carry out WMD trade then the interception of ships will have only limited efficacy.

The Bush Administration still hasn't demonstrated a willingness to do whatever it takes to stop North Korea. I am not confident that the Bush Administration possesses the amount of will that is required.

PSI against China: I sincerely doubt that will happen.

Bryan said at September 16, 2003 11:26 AM:

PSI against China--I don't think it will happen either, but that doesn't mean they don't think it will happen. Never underestimate Chinese paranoia, or its usefulness.

Regarding PSI itself, I think it's a very good sign that Japan and Australia are on board. Both are quite hawkish on North Korea; Japan's defense minister recently blamed Clinton-era policies for allowing Kim to get his hands on nukes, and supported pre-emption should North Korea attempt to launch a missile. Japan treats all North Korean freighter ships entering Japanese ports as threats--I was in Japan when a NoKo ship pulled into Niigata a few months ago. They sent 1,000 cops to board the thing, backed up by troops. Japan has also suffered small-scale anti-NoKo terrorism lately (symbolic bomb finds, no actual explosions that I know of), indicating that the people are fed up with a weak approach to Kim's antics. Both Japan and Australia are within range of North Korean missiles now, so both have a high stake in seeing the PSI work. China has a small stake in seeing it fail, so it may continue to allow overflights of NoKo weapons shipments. But it may not, if it thinks it can weaken PSI by reining Kim in on its own. Time will tell.

So my thinking is that PSI is a big deal, a way to approach arms control without the useless UN, and it may break the impasse across the DMZ by forcing the Chinese to act decisively. That it was engineered by the administration that the world is supposed to hate so much also says much about how the world actually sees us: Flawed, but indispensable when the chips are down.

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