Tuesday, July 25, 2006

China/North Korea

To take a break from the Middle East for a moment ...

A constant charge often levied against American realists who argue the need for engagement with countries such as China, notwithstanding our problems with the domestic nature of their regimes, is that even with engagement these countries don't render effective assistance in dealing with the problems that the U.S. faces.

Eurasia Group Asia analyst Bruce Klingner, however, notes that in response to specific and credible allegations brought forward by the United States, the Bank of China froze North Korean accounts this past year.

Klingner's conclusion is important to note:

"China’s acquiescence to US requests for action against North Korea illegal activities, even as it publicly criticized Washington’s efforts as counterproductive to resolving the six party talks, reflects Beijing’s conflicted policy toward North Korea. China seeks to induce Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons programs but has been reticent to risk actions that could trigger North Korean escalatory behavior or regime instability. China will continue to resist expansive US and Japanese economic sanctions against North Korea, asserting that UN Resolution 1695 applies only to missile and nuclear weapons activities and does not provide for levying or enforcing sanctions. Yet, China will be more willing to constrain North Korean proliferation or illicit activities than in the past, but will likely limit its involvement to targeted action against specific North Korean entities in response to direct US requests."

In other words, diplomacy.

Nick, what do you think about the piece in today's FT which somewhat stands in contradiction to this analysis, and concludes that "China ... has become North Korea's economic lifeline, but such patronage has not translated into instant political clout. And nor does Beijing seem willing to test too strenuously the limits of its influence."
Having read the FT piece as well, I think that that piece plus Klingner's comments are two ends of the spectrum, that China is willing to take very targeted action on specific issues but is not going to be out in front in generally putting pressure on Pyongyang--or to do the heavy lifting for the US and Japan.
Diplomacy - a very good idea. The bigger question is how.

I noticed a couple of posts up you criticize our "wasteful consumer spending." This consumer spending is how China got to be where it is today. As benign as that comment might sound to you or me, it sounds scarier to the Chinese. The fact is, this is the best source of diplomacy we have.
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