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Until recently Mr. Bo was viewed as the leading challenger to Hu Jintao and his heir apparent Xi Jinping. In light of Mr. Bo’s vast connections with numerous powerful Chinese princelings in key positions in the government and the People’s Liberation Army, it is viewed by observers as far less risky for Mr. Hu and Mr. Xi to purge Mr. Bo by using criminal, instead of political charges.

SHOOT DOWN PYONGYANG’S ROCKET?

This week, Beijing is facing a litmus test on its claimed disapproval of North Korea’s provocative rocket launch of what Pyongyang claims will be an attempt to orbit a satellite, but that the Pentagon is calling a long-range missile test.

That’s because all nations adjacent to North Korea recently announced plans to shoot down Pyongyang’s rocket if the booster goes astray over neighboring territories.

On Tuesday, Russia joined Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan in announcing that Moscow would use its missile defenses as well to shoot down the North Korean rocket or any parts if they should come near Russian territory.

The United States, which has a limited global missile defense system, already pledged its support for efforts to shoot down any stray rocket.

The chance that missile defenses will intercept the rocket is expected to force North Korea to orient the launch as far west from the Korean peninsula as possible, something that could bring it well over Chinese territory to avoid being shot down.

China publicly criticized Pyongyang’s announced plans for the rocket launch but has yet to specify what its responses would be to the following scenarios: Will China accept Pyongyang’s invite to send representatives to witness the launch? Will China shoot down the rocket if it comes into China? How will China vote in the United Nations on an anticipated U.S.-Japan-South Korea-sponsored resolution condemning the Pyongyang? How will China explain its continuing massive economic aid to Pyongyang?

These are Beijing’s dilemmas.

Miles Yu’s columns appear Thursdays. He can be reached at mmilesyu@gmail.com.