Nuclear-Armed N.Korea Would Hurt China

      June 29, 2009 13:04

      Chinaese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang in a press briefing on Thursday said measures taken over North Korea's nuclear test "should not affect the [North Korean] people's well-being, its normal trade and economic activities." "UN Security Council Resolution 1874 explicitly prescribes that actions taken by the Security Council should not affect people's well-being and development in [North Korea], should not affect the country's normal trade and should not affect humanitarian assistance there." He pointed out that Article 19 of the resolution stipulates that UN member countries, international financial institutions and credit ratings agencies will demand that no additional financial assistance and privileged loans be made, unless they involve "instances pertaining directly to humanitarian and developmental projects that have a direct relationship with the needs of North Koreans or stimulate denuclearization." China has interpreted that clause as meaning that the UN resolution guarantees the well-being of North Koreans and normal trade and economic activities.

      But in a society as closed as North Korea's, it is difficult to distinguish between what should be considered "normal trade" and which "instances pertaining directly to humanitarian and developmental projects" have a direct relationship with the needs of North Koreans. North Korea is a country that diverts to the military humanitarian food assistance provided by the international community. For China to suggest it is fine to engage in "normal trade" with North Korea without offering any standards to differentiate between acceptable and unacceptable trade could create unnecessary misunderstandings and be interpreted as reluctance to participate in the sanctions agreed by the UN Security Council.

      Every year, China supplies 90 percent of North Korea's oil, 45 percent of its food and 80 percent of its everyday goods. If China takes a passive stance in international efforts to pressure North Korea, then no sanction imposed by the UN Security Council can be effective.

      Over North Korea's brinkmanship, including its nuclear and missile tests, China is always saying that its influence is "limited." Some are reading China's passivity as a sign that Beijing has decided to accept a nuclear-armed North Korea for the sake of preventing regime collapse in the North. If China's policy toward North Korea continues in that direction, then the day will come when it will have to deal with the side effects and repercussions. Once South Korea and Japan start to feel that North Korea's nuclear status is a threat to their national security, their alliance with Washington and international accords will not be enough to prevent them from taking measures to protect themselves.

      The five-country dialogue framework President Lee Myung-bak proposed in a recent interview with foreign media has fallen flat due to China's opposition. There was a lack of strategic coordination beforehand, and there are rumors that China was unhappy with what it perceives as the Lee Myung-bak administration's focus on relations between Seoul, Washington and Tokyo. Our government must be ready to go all out diplomatically to win China's cooperation in suppressing North Korea's nuclear program.

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