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China and Russia Help US Throttle North Korea's Nuclear Ambitions; But Fight a Delaying Game to Assist Iran

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By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
February 15, 2007

Most observers of the international scene have delighted in this week's announcement that the "Six Party" talks finally yielded fruit and apparently the US and four of North Korea's neighbors, China, Russia, South Korea and Japan, have convinced North Korea to start to dismantle its nuclear weapon program in exchange for incentives including much needed oil.

Russia, China, and the others, it seems, worked diligently to take away nuclear weapons from a widely distrusted outlaw in the international community.

Meanwhile, in President Bush's effort to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and further supplying what he called in the past "evil doers" like the insurgents in Iraq and Hezbollah in Lebanon, Russia and China have taken the other side of the issue.

It seems when it comes to Iran, Russia and China see no need for immediate action, sanctions or just about anything else. They want to resolve any disputes with Iran amicably and through negotiations.

North Korean Deal: Who Benefits?

China, it seems to us, is the biggest winner here.

China is the largest supplier of aid and oil to North Korea and North Korea is hardly a cash cow.

North Korea's government assets are largely the profits from international criminal activities such as counterfeiting and drug smuggling. This illicit cash flow could be restricted if the US and the international community were further riled by the unpredictable government in Pyongyang.

China also fears a total collapse of the government in Pyongyang which could send millions of refugees seeking food and shelter across the northern border of North Korea and into China.

And China gains greatly in prestige by helping to resolve the North Korean standoff. Long considered a recalcitrant outsider in the Asian community of nations, China longs for respect commensurate with her economic power.

International cooperation like taking the lead with North Korea burnishes China reputation and clout.

Last month the leaders of 16 Asian nations met in Cebu, the Philippines, for the second East Asian Summit. Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo proclaimed that "we are happy to have China as our big brother in this region."

China is getting exactly what it wants right now in Asia, a year prior to the Beijing hosted 2008 Olympic games.

Why China and Russia Move Slowly Against Iran?

Iran has money.

China and Russia are both heavily invested in Iran.

For all the bombast of Mr. Ahmadinejad, Iran is good business.

Since the fall of the Shah of Iran and the subsequent taking of the US Embassy, Iran has endured more than 25 years of US trade sanctions. This means Iran's airlines fly Russian made jets; Iran's nuclear program uses centrifuge equipment, technology and technical advice from Russia and China; when Iran chose to threaten the US Navy in the Persian Gulf and the Straight of Hormuz they asked their ally Russia for Kilo class submarines and China supplied Silkworm anti-ship missiles; and when Iran wanted long range ballistic missiles, China and Russia were there to assist (in large measure through China's surrogate, North Korea).

And so it goes, trickling down throughout the Iranian economy, Russian and Chinese influence, with some help from Europeans, primarily from France, provide the largest amount of trade benefit.

This has a huge economic benefit for China, Russia and Iran, but it also means that Russia and China do not feel threatened by Iran.

The United States and Israel have claimed, and presented some credible evidence, that Iran is feeding Hezbollah arms and financing through Syria and Iran is supply the insurgents in Iraq.

No threat to China and Russia. In fact, Russia and China profit from this activity.

And finally, Russia and China have agreed that all future international action has to be conducted under the aegis of the United Nations.

Seems natural enough on its face until you consider the full ramification of the Iraq Oil for Food Program managed by the United Nations.

In that disgraceful display of greed and double dealing, Saddam Hussein, Russia, France, China, and a flock of UN bureaucrats got wealthy.

The lesson of this and other dealings with the UN, for Russia, China, and France is this: the UN is a cushy way to make money.

The lesson the United States has taken away from UN Oil for Food and scores of other UN activities is that corruption often over rules principle in the international body.

Where will it go?

At this point we expect that Iran, like North Korea, will one day conduct a nuclear teat.

The international community will be "shocked," much as it was after North Korean's autumn 2006 test.

Then China, Russia and their friends at the UN will take the lead in "negotiating an amicable resolution."

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John E. Carey is the former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc.
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