October 10, 2006

Saving Face


From Reuters: China, other powers say N. Korea should be punished.

China, North Korea's most important ally, joined other world powers on Tuesday in calling for a tough response to the reclusive communist state's announcement of a nuclear weapons test.

China and Russia, which both border North Korea, met with other veto-holding members of the U.N. Security Council to discuss a range of sanctions proposed by the United States and Japan to pressure Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear program.

Beijing's U.N. Ambassador, Wang Guangya, told reporters: "I think that there has to be some punitive actions." But he did not say which of the U.S.-proposed sanctions he would support.

"We need to have a firm, constructive, appropriate but prudent response to North Korea's nuclear threat," Wang added. ...

Pyongyang's declaration was a sharp blow to Chinese President Hu Jintao's doctrine of using economic and diplomatic coaxing to persuade it to drop its nuclear ambitions.

The announcement on Monday that it had conducted an underground nuclear test followed years of diplomatic efforts, particularly from Washington, to stop the unpredictable country from joining the seven other declared nuclear weapons states.

Joe Katzman at Winds of Change has more thoughts on the matter: Why North Korea is the Wrong Focus. (via InstaPundit)

The truth is that North Korea is an irrelevant bit player in this whole drama. The real player here is China. They have helped North Korea at every step, and North Korea's regime cannot survive at all without their ongoing food and fuel aid. Kim Jong-Il's nuclear plans may be slightly inconvenient to the Chinese -- just not not inconvenient enough to derail a strategy that still promises net plusses to those pursuing it within China's dictatorship.

UPDATE I -- Oct. 12: No surprise here. From AP: China reluctant to back Korea sanctions.

China appeared to shy away Thursday from backing U.S. efforts to impose a travel ban and financial sanctions on North Korea for its claimed nuclear test, saying any U.N. action should focus on bringing its communist neighbor back to talks.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said North Korea should understand it had made a mistake but "punishment should not be the purpose" of any U.N. response.

U.N. action "should be conducive to the de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula ... and the resumption of the talks," he told reporters. "It's necessary to express clearly to North Korea that ... the international community is opposed to this nuclear test."

The United States has circulated a new U.N. Security Council resolution that seeks to ban travel by people involved in North Korea's weapons program but softens some other measures to win Russian and Chinese support. North Korea warned it would consider increased U.S. pressure an act of war and take unspecified countermeasures.

UPDATE II -- Oct. 13: Now China is swinging back the other way (for the moment?). From FoxNews: China, South Korea Agree to Back Sanctions Against North Korea.

The presidents of China and South Korea agreed Friday to support sanctions to achieve a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula but want to see stability maintained, a South Korean official said. He said they discussed a U.S.-proposed draft U.N. resolution on penalties but reached no agreement.

Presidents Hu Jintao and Roh Moo-hyun didn't discuss details of the steps that they want to see taken following the North's claimed nuclear test, said Song Min-soon, Roh's security adviser.

UPDATE III -- Oct. 14: From FoxNews: Objections From China, Russia Could Delay U.N. Resolution.

Despite winning key concessions, Russia and China raised new objections that could delay a vote Saturday on a U.N. Security Council resolution imposing punishing sanctions on North Korea for its claimed nuclear test.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said the changes sought by Moscow and Beijing were essentially technical in nature and a vote may still be possible Saturday.

Posted by Forkum at October 10, 2006 04:58 PM