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October 16, 2006
US Keeping Pressure On China

The US, fresh from its Security Council victory, has now begun to ensure it maintains its success in isolating North Korea. John Bolton told the UN that China had a "heavy responsibility" to police their joint border and inspect all shipments crossing it, while Beijing complained that those expectations are too high:

In an unusual show of regional unity, Japan, South Korea, China and Russia lined up to back the US-drafted measures, which aim to punish Pyongyang for its claimed nuclear bomb test last Monday. ...

China called for calm and emphasised that the UN resolution did not permit military force. Academics said Beijing is reluctant to check all cargo crossing its long land border with North Korea or to take any step that might lead to a collapse of its neighbour and an exodus of refugees. "China will carry out the decision of the security council," said Zhou Yongsheng, professor at China's Foreign Affairs University. "But full inspections along our land border are unrealistic."

John Bolton, the US ambassador to the UN, said yesterday China had a "heavy responsibility" to influence North Korea's behaviour. As the North's major ally and supplier of crucial food and energy, if it were to cut that support, Mr Bolton said, it "would be powerfully persuasive".

North Korea continued issuing petulant rants, after walking out of the UN session that produced the sanctions. Bolton's North Korean counterpart accused the UNSC of being gangsters and again stated that further US pressure would be considered an act of war. No one knows for sure what Pyongyang means by that statement, but one can certainly suppose that the US would have to take out the next Taepodong-2 missile that they put onto a launch pad, regardless of whether they call it a test or not.

China doesn't want to be put in the position of enforcing sanctions against a brittle regime that could easily collapse and cause a flood of refugees into its own country. However, the US isn't about to let China off the hook. We know we will not get complete cooperation, but we want to start seeing the noose tighten on the Kim regime, and that will require Beijing to cooperate.

Why would they cooperate? They're keeping a close eye on Japan. Shinzo Abe wants to impose unilateral sanctions on North Korea, and has already begun doing so. They have proposed partnering with the US in seizing North Korean shipping and conducting searches for contraband, a move that would undoubtedly start a war that China wants to avoid. Abe may well also decide to start acquiring nuclear weapons if Kim will not disarm, and Beijing wants that even less than a North Korean collapse.

That's how the Kim regime will disarm peacefully, if it ever does. Their chief sponsor has to slap them down for any hope of success in stripping Pyongyang of its nukes. Some people wonder why we will not engage bilaterally with North Korea, but they cannot ask anything of us in head-to-head talks that they can't ask in multilateral negotiations. The North Koreans want the Chinese taken out of the discussions because China is the one country that has the greatest leverage.

The Bush administration understands this well, and they know to hold China's feet to the fire as well as North Korea. When we have motivated the Chinese enough, Kim will disarm -- or China will simply roll down to the 38th Parallel on their own to end the entire issue.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 16, 2006 5:00 AM

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