- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 22, 2003

North Korean companies in China are funneling technology and goods for Pyongyang's missile program, highlighting Beijing's mixed approach to the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula.
"North Korea also has continued procurement of raw materials and components for its ballistic-missile programs from various foreign sources, especially through North Korean firms based in China," the CIA stated in a recent report to Congress.
The public report coincides with other classified intelligence reports obtained in recent weeks indicating that China is also helping North Korea's nuclear program. The issue is a sensitive one for Beijing, as it has publicly called for Pyongyang to cooperate with the international community's demand to freeze its nuclear program.
The reports disclosed that a Chinese chemical manufacturer in the seaport of Dalian, near North Korea, supplied Pyongyang with tons of tributyl phosphate, known as TBP. The chemical has civilian purposes, but U.S. intelligence agencies believe it will be used for North Korea's nuclear-arms program.
The chemical transfer arrived in North Korea just as the secretive communist government announced that it had planned to reprocess spent fuel rods that will provide enough material for several nuclear bombs.
The Chinese Embassy yesterday did not return a phone call seeking comment.
North Korea's announcement last year that it was abandoning a 1994 agreement with the United States not to build nuclear weapons in exchange for oil shipments, along with its withdrawal from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has set off a crisis in northeast Asia.
The CIA report to Congress, made public earlier this month, said that fuel rods that were "canned" under the now-abandoned 1994 Agreed Framework "contain enough plutonium for several more weapons."
A congressional report on North Korea in 1999 stated that Pyongyang received most of its nuclear infrastructure from countries in the former Soviet Union, "but also has received equipment and know-how from China."
The final report of the House Speaker's North Korea Advisory Group said China "remains committed to the survival of the North Korean regime" and would be willing to support Pyongyang's needs for nuclear-power-generating reactor fuel if the United States, South Korea and Japan cut off fuel shipments and stop building two new nuclear reactors, as appears likely to happen.
Senior Chinese military leaders in charge of the Chinese military region of Shenyang, located north of the China-North Korea border, continue to have close ties to Pyongyang's military.
The military-to-military connection is believed crucial to the survival of the North Korean regime, according to U.S. analysts.
The North Korean companies operating in China were not identified in the CIA report.
But other U.S. officials have identified several of them as official North Korean government trading firms.
In Shanghai, for example, North Korea has set up a branch of the Maebong Trading Co. and the Amur River National Development General Bureau.
Another trading company that operates in China is the Korea Daesong Trading Corp., which has an office in Hong Kong.
Pyongyang has also set up a trading company in Macao that is run by the North Korean People's Armed Forces. That company is used to covertly purchase arms and equipment.
A senior administration official said the United States wants China "to use what leverage they have" to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear-arms program.
"I think that they have talked to the North Koreans," the senior official said. "The general feeling is that there is always more that they could do, and we would encourage them to do as much as possible."
So far, however, China's support for resolving Pyongyang's nuclear crisis has been limited.
John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said in Beijing on Monday that China could have a "profound influence on Pyongyang's behavior" regarding the nuclear crisis because of its long-standing ties to North Korea.
Mr. Bolton sought to play down criticism that China was not doing enough.
"I wouldn't say there's been a failure on the Chinese side at all," he said. "I think we're still working on the problem."
Mr. Bolton held talks with Chinese officials on other subjects, including Beijing's continued involvement in the sales of weapons of mass destruction to rogue states.
Mr. Bolton said he favors putting the North Korean nuclear problem before the U.N. Security Council and noted that he did not detect opposition to that proposal from Beijing.
The goal would be for the Security Council to issue a "presidential statement" calling on North Korea to again halt its arms program.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, however, said later that China favors direct talks between North Korea and the United States, apparently fearing that involving the world body could lead to new economic sanctions or even an authorization to use force to dismantle Pyongyang's nuclear program.
James Lilley, a former ambassador to China, said curbing China's arms ties to North Korea is less important than gaining Chinese support for putting economic pressure on Pyongyang.
"I think the main thing is to get them on our side and have them exercise leverage," Mr. Lilley said, noting that pressure can be applied without hitting North Korea with new economic sanctions.
About 70 percent of North Korea's fuel oil and grain come from China.
Chuck Downs, a former U.S. government specialist on North Korea, said nothing happens with North Korean companies in China without the government in Pyongyang knowing about it.
"On the Chinese side, that may not be the case," said Mr. Downs, author of "Over the Line: North Korea's Negotiating Strategy."
Mr. Downs said he is optimistic that Beijing will help resolve the nuclear crisis.
"Some Chinese genuinely appreciate the danger to the security situation that the North Korean nuclear program poses," he said in an interview.
He added that unless the problem is resolved, Japan and Taiwan could seek to build nuclear weapons triggering a regional arms race.
Another danger is that North Korea could initiate a nuclear war in northeast Asia by staging a fake U.S. attack on its nuclear facilities with the goal of seeking Chinese military support, Mr. Downs said.


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