- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 7, 2007

BEIJING — The United States and its partners in six-party talks have taken steps they knew would prevent progress in halting North Korea’s nuclear program, a Chinese analyst said yesterday in remarks presumed to reflect the thinking of the Beijing government.

In comments much more pessimistic than what has been heard from chief U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill, the analyst also warned of the risk of war between the United States and China if the North Korean nuclear issue is mishandled.

The “North Korean nuclear issue is not a technical nuclear issue, but an issue complicated by politics, economy, military and ideology and other considerations,” said Teng Jianqun, deputy secretary-general at the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association.

“If we really want to solve this dispute, don’t bind the nuclear issue with other issues such as money laundering, hostage hijacking; it completely ruins the talks,” he told foreign reporters of the eve of the latest round of talks.

“Of course, the decision-makers knew what reaction would come from North Korea after the financial sanctions,” he said.

The Chinese analyst spoke on the eve of the resumption today of six-party talks seeking to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

Negotiators will gather in a secluded compound in western Beijing and, aided by rows of translators, focus on fleshing out a 2005 statement offering North Korea economic and security concessions in return for abandoning nuclear weapons.

The talks on the North Korean crisis involve the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, Russia and host China.

Agreement in principle to halt Pyongyang’s program was announced in September 2005, but all progress halted soon afterward when a bank in Macau, facing pressure from the United States, froze a $24 million North Korean bank account citing suspected counterfeiting and money laundering.

However, the Japanese newspaper Asahi said yesterday that North Korea and the United States signed a memorandum of understanding in Berlin last month in which Pyongyang agreed to move toward shutting down its nuclear reactor in exchange for aid, Reuters news agency reported.

In Beijing, Mr. Teng said repeatedly that he was expressing his own opinions, but the remarks were interpreted as subtle signals of official Chinese impatience with the slow progress of the talks.

The event was hosted by the International Liaison Department of the All-China Journalists Association, a government-approved body that helps keep the Chinese press on a tight leash.

Mr. Teng called his group a nongovernmental organization, but also stated it was sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and that he draws a government salary.

His grim tone stood in stark contrast to a series of upbeat remarks from Mr. Hill and other U.S. officials following three days of talks with North Korean nuclear envoy Kim Kye-gwan in Berlin last month.

“The real success will be when we complete the full September ‘05 statement, not just when we start,” Mr. Hill said after arriving in Beijing yesterday. “We’re not going to finish that this week. We’ll just maybe take a good first step.”

The U.S. envoy added that Washington was “ready to implement all of the joint statement,” including economic and energy aid.

At his own briefing, Mr. Teng said he thinks North Korea has nuclear weapons but would not estimate how many. He said the bomb was the country’s “last resort to defend itself from foreign countries including the U.S.”

He also reiterated that “stability not only on Korean Peninsula but the Northeast Asian region is in the greatest interest of China.”

A “dangerous result of the nuclear issue over the Korean Peninsula might be a face-to-face confrontation between China and the U.S.,” Mr. Teng warned.

The analyst, who until 2004 served in the People’s Liberation Army and the PLA’s Navy, used a nautical metaphor to describe a possible Sino-U.S. conflict.

“No country, especially the big powers, can suffer such a face-to-face direct confrontation,” he said.

“If the U.S. was a supership with a displacement of 100,000 tons and China could be a large ship with a displacement of 10,000 tons, so if an iceberg can take a supership like the Titanic to the bottom of the ocean, how about the direct clash between China and the U.S.?

“Who will sink? Nobody knows.”

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