August 6, 2004


Whispers That May Wake the Dragons (ANNE WU, 8/06/04, NY Times)

The negotiations to remove nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula are a delicate business, made even more so with the tectonic shifts in Asian geopolitics. As facilitator in the often rocky negotiations that also include North and South Korea, Russia, Japan and the United States, China appears to be taking a decisive - if typically understated - diplomatic initiative in smoothing communications between North Korea and the United States.

But what message is China whispering to North Korea? With the six party talks scheduled to resume in September, both those eager for China to exert its influence and those suspicious of that influence would dearly like to know. China now has an opportunity to take advantage of the cautious equilibrium between Washington and Pyongyang and advance the cause of nuclear nonproliferation on the Korean peninsula.

There are still significant divisions between the United States, which is pressing for the verifiable and irreversible dismantling of North Korea's nuclear weapons program and North Korea, which has not yet even admitted it has an uranium enrichment program. The two sides also disagree on inspections and on the exact sequence of disarmament and assistance.

It is certainly in China's interest that North Korea put an end to its nuclear weapons program.

So, if it is in China's interest to disarm Korea and it keeps them distracted, why don't we just bail out and leave them to deal with the mess they made?

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 6, 2004 8:57 AM

Ummmm, because they can now get a nuclear payload to the U.S. mainland?

Posted by: Jim Gooding at August 6, 2004 9:08 AM

Come back, Curtis LeMay, all is forgiven!

Posted by: Governor Breck at August 6, 2004 9:27 AM

Because the subsequent Asian nuke race, with Japan arming, won't be in anyone's interest.

Posted by: Mike M at August 6, 2004 9:39 AM

China will drag this out for all it's worth. This is a bargaining chip that they can use against the US for all sorts of reasons:

- China's desire to absorb Taiwan
- Coming trade war with US
- Political cover for when they dump the greenback.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at August 6, 2004 10:10 AM


China isn't dumping any greenbacks, unless it wants to return to the 1950s.

China may not care if NK has nuclear weapons or not, but it certainly cares about Japan and Taiwan wanting them. Furthermore, I'm sure we all agree that China doesn't want a 'freed' NK, just like Iran doesn't want a 'freed' Iraq.

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 6, 2004 11:05 AM

Big 'if'

Posted by: Harry Eagar at August 6, 2004 1:49 PM

Jim Gooding:

Bad news if you live in Hawai'i or Los Angeles, but will China really trade all of their major cities for the chance to take out Hollywood ?

(Hint: No).


China having a trade war with the US makes about as much sense as Nate Newton driving around with 175 lbs. of marijuana in his car, while awaiting trial on charges of having an earlier 213 lbs. of marijuana in his vehicle.

In other words, imbecilic. But possible.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at August 7, 2004 4:37 AM