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Are China, ROK game to ‘punish’ N. Korea?

Posted by Author on October 13, 2006

The Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan, Oct. 14, 2006-

How will China and South Korea react, in practical terms, to North Korea’s claimed nuclear test, which is a threat to the stability of the region?

Chinese President Hu Jintao and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun met in Beijing on Friday, but the two leaders only reiterated the standard responses, such as “resolving the issue through peaceful dialogues and negotiations.”

The U.N. Security Council is set to adopt a resolution calling for economic sanctions against North Korea. But if Beijing and Seoul, which have supported Pyongyang mentally and materially, continue to shilly-shally about adopting tough measures to deal with the renegade country, the effectiveness of the resolution will be called into question.

Since North Korea’s announcement Monday that it had carried out a nuclear test, China has been telling the international community that Beijing is ready to cooperate on the issue.

In an angry tone of voice earlier this week, Chinese Ambassador to the United Nations Wang Guangya said, “There has to be some punitive actions” against Pyongyang’s claimed nuclear test, showing that China was ready to accept sanctions against North Korea.

The devil they know

Timed to coincide with discussions at the U.N. Security Council to finalize the U.S.-led draft of a resolution, Hu dispatched State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan as his special envoy to Washington.

In his meetings with U.S. President George W. Bush and other senior U.S. officials, Tang agreed with the U.S. view that strong messages should be sent to Pyongyang and that its nuclear test should be severely condemned.

However, will China actually take steps that merit the use of a word as strong as “punitive?”

China has controlled the lifeline of North Korea as its largest aid donor and trading partner. Furthermore, Beijing’s influence over Pyongyang has increased in recent years along with China’s economic expansion.

If China were to stop its supply of crude oil and food to North Korea in tandem with the U.N. resolution, the regime in Pyongyang could well be brought to its knees.

In such an event, a great flood of North Korean refugees would doubtlessly rush into China. The chaos resulting from such an influx of refugees would have a great impact on the diplomatic and domestic affairs of China, and would stall its economic growth.

This is a nightmare scenario for the Chinese leadership. ( more from The Yomiuri Shimbun report )

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