December 23, 2010 09:20
Seoul slammed Beijing on Wednesday for saying North Korea has the right to use nuclear power. "China appears to have lost its discernment and sense of balance," a Foreign Ministry official said.
"It's possible to talk about the right to peaceful use of nuclear power for countries that are signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and undergo International Atomic Energy Agency inspections. But neither is the case with the North, which withdrew from the NPT and expelled IAEA inspectors," the official said. "China surely understands this situation but is clouding the issue of the North's denuclearization."
A diplomatic source said, "The North has boasted about its uranium enrichment since April last year" and showed its uranium enrichment facilities to a visiting U.S. expert last month. "Only now has it expressed willingness to admit IAEA inspection, claiming that this will show how transparently it has developed the equipment." But he said uranium enrichment itself "violates UN Security Council resolutions banning nuclear activities" and a Sept. 19, 2005 statement of principles from six-party nuclear talks stipulating that the North must give up its nuclear development program.
"Tolerating the North's uranium enrichment is not an appropriate attitude for China as a responsible big power," he added.
Prof. Kim Heung-kyu of Sungshin Women's University said, "From China's perspective, South Korea went ahead with its plan to carry out the artillery fire drill" on Yeonpyeong Island on Monday despite Chinese protests, "but the North ended up avoiding the worst-case scenario by refraining from attacking the South again." He added this was clearly a slanted view of the conflict.
Park Byung-kwang of the Institute for National Security Strategy said China's statement in support of the North's right to use nuclear power "may be a preemptive blessing for the North's nuclear weapons program." He said Beijing "apparently already decided to tolerate the North's possession of nuclear weapons ahead of a third nuclear test the North may conduct and use this as a bargaining chip in its dealings with the U.S."
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