In the wake of North Koreas bombshell unveiling of new uranium enrichment facilities, South Korea, the U.S. and Japan are scrambling to jointly prepare countermeasures. In Seoul, U.S. special envoy for North Korea Stephen Bosworth said Monday that the Norths act constitutes a clear violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874. He warned that the situation is the worst in 20 years. The severity of the situation is also evidenced by Wi Sung-lac, South Korea`s chief nuclear envoy to the six-party nuclear talks, starting consultation with his Chinese counterpart and Bosworths abrupt visits to South Korea and Japan Monday and to China Tuesday.
The Norths unveiling of its new uranium enrichment facilities will come as a big surprise to China as well. Beijing has yet to announce an official response, with Chinese media also silent on the matter unlike news agencies in South Korea, the U.S. and Japan. China has repeatedly emphasized three principles for the Korean Peninsula -- peace and stability, denuclearization and resolution of problems through dialogue and negotiations. In talks with main opposition Democratic Party lawmakers of Korea in May, Chinese Ambassador to Seoul Zhang Xinsen also reiterated the same principles. Unlike its official stance, however, Beijing turned passive in imposing sanctions on Pyongyang that could have generated a practical impact when the North conducted two nuclear tests. China also supports the Norths power succession to the third generation of the ruling Kim family and even provides economic assistance.
China must see North Korea for what it is. If Beijing was unaware of Pyongyangs plan to make uranium-based nuclear weapons, it means China was effectively duped by the North. If Beijing acquiesces or protects Pyongyang even if the North seeks to acquire uranium-based nuclear weapons on top of those using plutonium, China will inevitably be held responsible for allowing the Norths nuclear armament. Beijing must also realize that Pyongyangs nuclear program could ultimately jeopardize all of Northeast Asia. Naturally, strategic discussions have begun in South Korea on bringing in U.S. tactical nuclear weapons. If Pyongyang refuses to give up its nuclear weapons to the end, a nuclear arms race could spread to South Korea, Japan and Taiwan. This situation will also not serve Chinas national interests.
The North is jeopardizing peace on the Korean Peninsula and directly challenging a ban on nuclear proliferation, which represents a common world goal. Why does Beijing continue to support Pyongyang on the grounds of blood-bonded ties from six decades ago even as the North, an international pariah, arms itself with a variety of nuclear weapons? If China shuns global efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, it has no right to chair the six-party talks. If it wants to stay host of the dialogue, it should proactively devise and implement a specific course of action to dispel Pyongyangs nuclear threat via international collaboration.