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China: Opportunity to Act Decisively

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By John E. Carey
October 10, 2006

After North Korea staged its missile test extravaganza on July 4, Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough wrote in their Washington Times column "Inside the Ring" that there was concern in Washington about China's ability "to come through on private pledges to the Bush administration to halt North Korea's missile tests."

After discussing the situation with their pentagon contacts, Gertz and Scarborough wrote on July 7, "China deliberately misled the United States into thinking that it had prevailed on North Korea not to conduct the launches, which have triggered a regional crisis..."

One has to think that a similar scenario has just been played out as China and the UN attempted to dissuade North Korea from conducting a nuclear test.

Now that a test has reportedly occurred in North Korea, what is China going to do?

China's Ambassador to the United Nations said Tuesday that the security council must give a "firm, constructive, appropriate but prudent response" to North Korea.

Wang Guangya told reporters that North Korea must face "some punitive actions" for testing a nuclear device.

"The nuclear test will undoubtedly exert a negative impact on our relations," said China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao. He reiterated that Monday's test was done "flagrantly, and in disregard of the international community's shared opposition."

And who is in a better position to apply "some punitive actions" to North Korea? Who is in a better position to exhibit the "shared opposition" to North Korea?

China controls North Korea's energy supplies; and with winter coming on it is difficult to imagine that fuel sanctions from China could be avoided for long.

China also supplies food to North Korea.

China is highly motivates to maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. China fears a mass migration of hungry North Koreans into China and China wants to continue its own remarkable economic growth without further spending on an arms race. China wants a quiescent North and South Korea, Japan, and the U.S.

China also has to share the fear many have: that North Korea will sell nuclear technology to the highest (terrorist) bidder. China could be a target as that Communist regime has many terrorist adversaries that would be eager to strike a nuclear blow.

Japan and South Korea also have a huge role to play. South Korea has a policy of encouraging reunification on the peninsula. This "Sunshine Policy" of benefits to North Korea in exchange for steps toward reunification must now be called into question. South Korea has been lied to and deceived as much as anyone and they do not want to spend more on their military.

Japan's new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe faces his first major test. Japan has been making moves toward a more active role in world military circles than at any time since the end of World War II. Abe made an announcement today that Japan would not pursue nuclear weapons of its own - an announcement that would have been unimaginable a year of two ago.

Even Russia has reasons to worry about a nuclear North Korea. The Russian Foreign Ministry said today, "The Russian side [has] indicated its readiness to participate in joint efforts by the interested parties aimed at a peaceful diplomatic resolution of the situation surrounding North Korea."

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