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October 20, 2006
China To Cut Off Kim's Oil

China has begun to consider an energy embargo on North Korea, a step that almost certainly would cause the Kim regime to face serious domestic pushback in Pyongyang. If Kim does not return to the six-party talks, North Korea will start getting darker than that satellite picture making the rounds:

China is prepared to step up pressure on North Korea in coming weeks by reducing oil shipments, among other measures, if the country refuses to return to negotiations or conducts more nuclear tests, Chinese government advisers and scholars who have discussed the matter with the leadership say.

If Beijing does take a tougher line on its neighbor and longtime ally, the action is likely to bolster its relationship with the United States. Washington has urged Chinese leaders to use all the tools at their disposal to put additional pressure on Kim Jong-il, the North Korean leader.

Among the most potent of those tools is oil. China provides an estimated 80 to 90 percent of North Korea’s oil imports, shipped by pipeline at undisclosed prices that Chinese officials say represent a steep discount from the world market price. Any reduction in that aid could severely hamper North Korea’s already faltering economy.

Several leading Chinese experts said senior officials had indicated in the past week that they planned to slap new penalties on North Korea going beyond the ban on sales of military equipment imposed by the United Nations. But they would be likely to hold off if Mr. Kim agreed to return soon to multilateral talks North Korea has boycotted since September 2005. Years of talks have produced meager results.

The Chinese have taken Kim's nuclear test more seriously than people first predicted. This could still be an act intended on currying favor with the US, but the humiliation appears to be real. Beijing thought they could use Kim to show the world that they had the most influence in east Asia and the western Pacific. Instead, they got surprised when Kim thumbed his nose at them.

If China implements an oil embargo on Kim, they will put the North Koreans on the edge of collapse. They have little enough energy now, and their armed forces use most of that. Their ability to defend themselves depends on Chinese energy. It will do more in a shorter period of time to disarm Kim than an arms embargo.

Why does China want to cooperate with the US, which it sees as a rival in the Pacific Rim? For one thing, they do not want to see the region nuclearize, especially Japan, and China understands that America is the only nation that can keep that from happening. They also do a lot more business with America than they do with North Korea. North America is one of the biggest markets in the world. They can't afford to antagonize us too much, and they know it.

Kim ignored their warnings twice already this year. The Chinese may be mad enough to do something about it. The Bush administration sees this opening and is determined not to let the opportunity slip from their grasp. Notice that the White House has quit talking about naval interdictions for the moment; they know the Chinese won't go for any overt military confrontation. If Beijing will seriously consider cutting off energy to Pyongyang, the interdictions will probably be unnecessary.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 20, 2006 5:15 AM

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» First Cup 10.20.06 from bRight & Early
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Tracked on October 20, 2006 8:31 AM

» from Bill's Bites
Dear Leader Regrets...Hatched by Dafydd Evidently, the Dear Leader, Kim Jong-Il, regrets the nuclear test. That's what he told the Chinese. In fact, he regrets the test so much, he's even willing to return to the six-party talks... provided the [Read More]

Tracked on October 20, 2006 9:40 AM

» More About Pressure on the Norks from China from Hang Right Politics
Captain Ed has a great article on the pressure that the Chinese are putting on the North Koreans (i.e., Kim) to stop further nuclear testing and to bring them back to the multilateral discussions. China To Cut Off Kim’s Oil. As I have stated be... [Read More]

Tracked on October 20, 2006 10:45 AM

» Bush Multilateral Diplomacy Working? from HILLARYNEEDSAVACATION
Democrats advocated abandoning the multilateral, to appease North Korea in a unilateral fashion again. Proven wrong so soon? [Read More]

Tracked on October 20, 2006 1:14 PM


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