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China Could Help Defuse ICBM Crisis

Posted June. 26, 2006 07:49,   


The Korean government plans to work with China to prevent North Korea from launching a test missile. Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon is scheduled to visit China on the afternoon of June 26, and meet his Chinese counterpart Li Zhaoxing and State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan the next day to request assistance in dissuading North Korea.

The government believes that if China takes an aggressive stance, North Korea’s economic dependence on the country will allow China to play a crucial role in stopping the North from firing a missile. In 2005, trade between North Korea and China was $1.58 billion, which is 50 percent higher than the trade between North and South Korea, which was worth $1.05 billion. Also it is known that one third of food import, and almost all of their crude oil is brought in from China.

Robert Einhorn, senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, being also the former assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation under the Clinton administration, said on an interview with Radio Free Asia on June 22, “The best solution is for the U.S. to convince China to prevent North Korea from firing a missile.”

Experts believe that China also views North’s missile launch as an obstruction to its national interests. This is because a missile launch will strengthen the U.S-Japan alliance, speed up the formation of a North East Asia Missile Defense system, and probably lead to reinforcement of Japanese military forces, which are all a heavy burden on China’s diplomatic and security policies.

However, it is unlikely that China will follow the United States to openly put pressure on North Korea. Shin Sang-jin, a professor of the Chinese department at Kwangwoon University said, “China is trying to use its influence on the North as a lever to keep the U.S. and South Korea in check.” He predicted, “China is likely to keep on friendly terms with North Korea while cautiously attempting to persuade them.”

Myoung-Gun Lee gun43@donga.com