October 01, 2009 12:26
China and North Korea "will sign some cooperative agreements on trade, education and tourism" when Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visits the North, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters Tuesday. "China has always been providing assistance to [North Korea] within its capacity to help it develop its economy and improve the livelihood of its people." The comments suggest that Wen’s visit will follow past precedent of Chinese leaders' trips to North Korea, which were accompanied by lavish aid to Pyongyang.
China is said to have given North Korea with US$2 billion worth of food and economic aid for President Hu Jintao's first visit in October 2005. The U.S. Congressional Research Service says North Korea posted a $1.3 billion trade deficit in 2008, with $2.8 in exports being offset by $4.1 billion in imports. If Wen promises $2 billion worth of support during his visit, the communist country will more than make up for its trade deficit.
North Korea's halt of military provocations and start of a charm offensive in August "is the result of the strongest UN sanctions we have seen so far and the cooperation with China and other countries to ensure that they are actually applied to North Korea," CIA Director Leon Panetta has said. The sanctions against North Korea focus on banning the country's missile exports and prohibiting it from importing weapons components, so China's support in trade, education and tourism does not violate UN sanctions. But North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in October 2006, exactly one year after it received $2 billion in assistance from China during Hu’s visit.
If North Korea manages to overcome its economic emergency through massive aid from China, it could repeat its past behavior of making plausible promises during talks while secretly developing nuclear weapons. This could result in the official recognition of North Korea as a nuclear power, prompting South Korea and Japan to develop their own nuclear arsenal and turning Northeast Asia into a nuclear minefield. If China and the U.S. do not want this to happen, then any support they give North Korea must stay within the framework of international efforts to stop the communist country's nuclear weapons program.
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