Wednesday, November 9, 2005

China has failed to use political and economic leverage to press North Korea into giving up its nuclear program, a congressional commission says.

The annual report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, which focused mostly on economic issues, also warned that China’s rapid military buildup “presents a growing threat to U.S. security interests in the Pacific.”

The report said China has refused to use its substantial influence to pressure Pyongyang because it fears that doing so would destabilize communist North Korea.

“Given the level of Chinese assistance to and trade with North Korea, China has significant power in shaping Pyongyang’s behavior,” the report said, noting that a Chinese aid cutoff could cripple North Korea in six months.

Beijing, however, refuses to impose sanctions on Pyongyang “to gain traction concerning North Korea’s nuclear weapons activities,” the report said.

During an impasse in the six-party talks earlier this year, “the Chinese clearly sought to protect the North Koreans against sanctions,” the report said.

Beijing also called on the United States to make concessions at the talks, something Washington has refused to do.

Additionally, the report said Chinese companies are continuing to provide weapons of mass destruction and missile-related technology to North Korea.

China also has helped North Korean ships and planes involved in arms proliferation. A North Korean freighter stopped near Yemen in 2003 with Scud missiles had made a port call in China, the report said.

A Chinese bank also is involved in money laundering related to efforts by North Korea to finance its nuclear arms program, according to the report.

China is North Korea’s largest trading partner and the main source of financial assistance, the report said. Bilateral trade was $1.2 billion last year, and China supplied $100 million worth of fuel to the communist state.

The September agreement at the six-party talks is encouraging, the report said, but “there is a great distance to go before the agreed principles are reflected in reality.” It noted that “the history of North Korea’s action in abiding by and implementing agreements is abysmal.”

The report stated that implementing the principles will succeed only if China uses its leverage on North Korea to enforce it.

The report said China’s military buildup appears aimed beyond a Taiwan conflict.

“While Taiwan remains a key potential flash point, China’s aggressive pursuit of territorial claims in the East and South China Seas points to ambitions that go beyond a Taiwan scenario and poses a growing threat to neighbors, including U.S. alliance partners, on China’s periphery,” the report said.

Chinese mobile ballistic missiles and improved air and naval forces “provide China with the capability to conduct offensive strikes and military operations throughout the region,” the report said.

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