- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 17, 2002

The day after President Bush branded Iran, Iraq and North Korea the "axis of evil," a popular humor Web site reported that China had formed its own "Axis of Just as Evil" with Libya and Syria.
The item on satirewire.com illustrates a dilemma facing Mr. Bush as he lands in Tokyo today, the start of a weeklong trip that also includes Seoul and Beijing.
When Mr. Bush dines with Chinese President Jiang Zemin on Thursday, the two nations will celebrate the 30th anniversary of President Nixon's groundbreaking trip to Beijing.
In private, however, administration officials say Mr. Bush is preparing to deliver a stern warning to Beijing to stop proliferating a euphemism for providing missile technology, components and missiles to countries, including those in the official axis of evil.
In all three capitals, Mr. Bush will be tough on North Korea, which sells missiles and missile technology "to just about anybody who will buy," said National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice as Air Force One prepared to take off for Tokyo.
"The North Koreans have been known to go around with glossy brochures about their ballistic missiles," Miss Rice told reporters. "They are stocking a lot of the world right now."
But the president's call on China to end its own exports to countries such as Iraq and Pakistan will be just as serious, if not nearly as threatening, Miss Rice said.
In spite of "some small progress," the issue remains largely unresolved, and "we will always sanction Chinese companies when they are engaged" in missile exports, she said.
Another White House official said that during his trip to Beijing Mr. Bush will try to "get [China] to fully implement" a November 2000 agreement with the United States that bans exports of mid- and long-range missiles and related technology.
The official did note that Sino-U.S. ties have improved significantly since September 11, which "made China decide where it wants to go with the United States." But he said noncompliance with the accord, signed during the Clinton administration, would "affect the relationship."
In the past several months, the United States and China have grown closer than either Nixon or Mao ever could have imagined when they sat down together in the Great Hall of the People 30 years ago.
Beijing has backed the U.S.-led war on terrorism, its threats to conquer Taiwan have subsided, and it has accepted the presence of U.S. troops on its western border without complaint. China even kept silent when electronic bugs were discovered in Mr. Zemin's Boeing 767 jet, just delivered after a major overhaul by Boeing in the United States.
(A classified State Department intelligence report said Mr. Jiang belives the bugs were planted not by U.S. spies, but by his archrival, Li Peng, The Washington Times reported Friday.)
Washington is even prepared to engage Beijing more actively in the debate on U.S. plans to build a limited defense against ballistic missiles fired by rogue states and terrorists.
The United States has been discussing the plan mainly with Russia, because the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty was signed by its predecessor, the Soviet Union. The Bush administration has given Russia notice that it plans to withdraw from the pact.
"For reasons having to do with kind of the history of the Cold War, and arms control being locked up in that history, the United States has really not … engaged China on issues of strategic nuclear policy, and we want to do that," Miss Rice said.
The Chinese government promised the United States 15 months ago not to engage in exports that enhance other nations' missile capabilities. In exchange, President Clinton waived sanctions spelled out by U.S. proliferation laws.
But after The Times published a series of reports last year that Chinese companies had continued to sell such products to other countries, most notably Pakistan, the Bush administration theatened to reimpose economic sanctions on Beijing.
Bilateral talks on arms-proliferation curbs since have failed to obtain a clear pledge by China to abide by its commitment. Beijing denies it has violated the agreement, and Washington recently imposed sanctions on one Chinese company.
Michael Swaine, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said such sales show that China "has made a deliberate strategic decision regarding Pakistan." Both nations share a long-standing enmity with India, with which Pakistan is entangled in a bitter territorial conflict over Kashmir. Both Pakistan and India have nuclear weapons.
Larry Wortzel, director of the Heritage Foundation's Asia Studies Center, urged Washington to go beyond simply issuing warnings to Beijing over missile proliferation.
"What was left unsaid in the State of the Union [speech] is that China is a major supplier of technology, missiles, missile components … to all three 'axis of evil' states," Mr. Wortzel said. "If the president is going to stick to his principles in the war on terrorism, he has to state he will not look the other way. China is a proliferator, and he can't ignore that."
Mr. Bush's State of the Union comments on reclusive North Korea raised a few eyebrows in several allied countries, especially South Korea. In Seoul, many have interpreted his remarks as yet another blow to President Kim Dae-jung's "sunshine policy" to promote reconciliation and eventual reunification of the two Koreas.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who is accompanying Mr. Bush to Asia, has said in recent weeks that the administration is still interested in talking with Pyongyang "at any time, any place, without preconditions." But diplomats and foreign policy specialists say Mr. Bush's choice of words in Seoul will play a crucial role in determining whether the North will continue its dialogue with the South.
Miss Rice said one "can have a policy that speaks the truth, speaks clearly about the North Korean regime, and yet leaves open the possibility of dialogue."
But she warned that the administration wants "dialogue on some specific issues," not "dialogue for the sake of dialogue."
"The peace on the peninsula has been kept, not because of North Korean good will, but … because of the very strong alliance between [South Korea] and the United States," she said. "And if there is to be reconciliation, if there is to be progress, it is going to have to be in the context of that strength being maintained."
Several administration officials indicated last week that no one should expect a wholehearted embrace of the "sunshine policy."
Mr. Bush will offer Mr. Kim "strong support for engagement with the North," but the United States and South Korea have "different interests" in dealing with the North and therefore should use different approaches, the White House official said.
"Our issues are political, military and geostrategic," he said, compared with Seoul's mostly economic interests and its desire to reunite families separated since a 1953 armistice ended the Korean War.
The official said Mr. Kim, who has less than a year remaining in office, appears to have given up on a visit by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to Seoul.
The South Korean president traveled to Pyongyang in June 2000 and was promised a reciprocal visit by his North Korean counterpart, but it has yet to materialize.
The Bush administration is said to be not entirely comfortable with Kim Dae-jung, who won the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize for his reconciliation efforts.
In contrast South Korean opposition leader Lee Hoi-chang, who is widely expected to succeed Mr. Kim, appeared far more in sync with the Bush administration when he visited Washington last month.
"The 'sunshine policy' has widely come to be viewed as overreaching, overgenerous and oblivious of the anxiety and insecurity felt by many people in the South," Mr. Lee said at the time.
Mr. Lee said that he supports a policy of engagement with the Stalinist state, but that he insists that North Korea reciprocate when the South offers economic aid, investment and other incentives toward its longtime foe.
Whatever Mr. Bush's personal relations with Mr. Kim may be, "my expectation is that he would reiterate his concern about North Korea and would reaffirm the strong relationship between South Korea and the United States," said Wendy Sherman, a senior Clinton adviser on North Korea policy.
Lee Feinstein, former deputy director of policy planning at the State Department, said people in South Korea "want to know what the president himself thinks,"
"He can send a positive message about negotiations with North Korea while at the same time being very stern on the issue of nonproliferation. They are not mutually exclusive," Mr. Feinstein said.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Kim said last week Seoul hoped Mr. Bush's visit would enhance "peace and security" on the peninsula and bolster its alliance with the United States.
The administration's North Korea policy created confusion during Mr. Bush's first months in office. Last March, a day after Mr. Powell had assured Mr. Kim that Washington would continue the Clinton administration's engagement with the North, Mr. Bush told Mr. Kim he was skeptical about future dealings with Pyongyang.
Mrs. Sherman said there are facts the Bush administration has pointed out that no one can deny, but the question is how to use those facts to design an effective policy.
"Everybody understands that weapons of mass destruction in the wrong hands are a terrible potential weapon of terrorism," she said. "I also agree that North Korea is a threat to the region and the world and has exported missiles and related technology to people we'd rather have them not done so. And it's a fact that it has a repressive regime, and that people are at the very least malnourished, if not starved."
But North Korea is at a very different place in its dealings with the United States compared with Iraq and Iran, the other members of the "axis of evil," Mrs. Sherman said.
The 1994 Agreed Framework, which introduced a verifiable freeze on the production of nuclear material, has been implemented, she said. "One can negotiate with [North Korea] an agreement that is carried out. This is certainly different from Iraq, and we have no ongoing negotiations with Iran."
Mrs. Sherman, who has met with Kim Jong-il and accompanied Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright on her visit to Pyongyang in October 2000, said the communist leader has taken positive steps in the past.
Pyongyang, for its part, has said resuming dialogue is "entirely up to" the United States. "We are always looking forward to solution of the issues through negotiations and talks, but such negotiations should be on equal basis without preconditions," North Korea's U.N. ambassador, Pak Gil-yon, told the Associated Press earlier this month.
Michael O'Hanlon, senior fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution, said Washington shouldn't wait for Pyongyang to make the first step, because "they don't have the intellectual infrastructure to devise a reasonable arms-control proposal."
"Moreover, the only way to get North Korea to make asymmetrical cuts in conventional arms, which is what Mr. Bush has said, is to offer them assistance with an economic reconstruction and reform plan, which they are not in a position to ask for," he said.
"So there is no way you can put the ball in their court it won't work. You have to expect some spirit of reciprocity and compromise and a desire to reform, but you can't demand of them to take the first step. It's a prescription for paralysis or even worse," Mr. O'Hanlon said.
A group of U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday urged Mr. Bush to cancel plans to provide two light water reactors to North Korea as part of the agreed framework, charging that Pyongyang was developing nuclear weapons.
The $4.6 billion project was supposed to be finished by next year, but delays have pushed back completion until at least 2008.
"North Korea has been developing nuclear weapons," said Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman, New York Republican. "A nuclear-armed North Korea would pose a grave threat to our nation and our allies."
Rep. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat, said Mr. Bush's trip was "an opportune time for him to announce that he is reconsidering plans to move forward and provide the North Koreans with two light water reactors."
The White House official, asked whether the United States would like to see Kim Jong-il replaced, said: "Nothing of what we have asked for requires regime change" in Pyongyang. "We see it more as a regime evolution."


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