North Korea's rocket plans seen as disrespectful to China

BEIJING - North Korea's announcement of plans to launch a long-range rocket made during a visit to Pyongyang by a top Chinese envoy will likely be seen as yet another sign of gross disrespect toward its chief ally.

See Full Article

Adding to the insult: North Korea's launch window for what critics call a banned test of ballistic missile technology falls during the Lunar New Year, marring China's most important seasonal holiday for many officials.

The announcement again places China under pressure from the U.S. and others to use its influence with Pyongyang to rein in its communist neighbour, despite Beijing's protestations that such influence is overestimated.

In Washington on Tuesday, top diplomat for East Asia Daniel Russel said a launch "would be an unmistakable slap in face to those who argue that you just need to show patience and dialogue with the North Koreans but not sanctions," in an apparent reference to China.

Russel called for tough new sanctions, including what are believed to be a ban on selling the North oil or buying its minerals, excluding banks doing business with it from accessing the dollar-based economy, or even barring its flagship airline from entering other countries' airspace.

Those are exactly the sort of regime-destabilizing steps that China fears, and Beijing, a veto-wielding permanent member of the United Nations Security Council appears to be pushing back. China already appears to be dragging its feet on a response to North Korea's purported first H-bomb test on Jan. 6.

Following four hours of talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Beijing last week, Foreign Minister Wang Yi reiterated China's support for a tough new UN resolution but appeared to pour cold water on the idea of new penalties.

"Sanctions are not an end in themselves," Wang said. "The new resolution should not provoke new tension in the situation, still less destabilize the Korean Peninsula."

Chinese state media have been even blunter, laying the blame on Washington for provoking Pyongyang and accusing it of maintaining a "Cold War mentality."

Sanctions have thus far included bans on weapon sales, dealing with blacklisted individuals or enterprises and other targeted measures. Although Beijing has supported those measures, it points to North Korea's continuing nuclear tests and missile launches as proof of their ineffectiveness.

North Korea on Tuesday informed international organizations of its plans to launch an Earth observation satellite on a rocket between Feb. 8 and 25. The launch declaration, meant to warn civilians, shipping and aircraft in the area about the rocket and falling debris, follows North Korea's disputed claim on Jan. 6 to have tested a hydrogen bomb, the country's fourth nuclear test.

A visit by China's chief North Korean envoy, Wu Dawei, to Pyongyang this week had been primarily an attempt to sound the North out on its intentions, and, as in the past, Beijing was probably not informed of the announcement beforehand, said Liu Ming, an specialist in Korean issues at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences

North Korea's most important ally, chief trading partner and a key source of economic assistance, China may adopt limited unilateral steps to express its dissatisfaction, including stepped inspections on North Korean ships docking in China and reducing oil exports.

Those steps could show China is taking action, although support for tough new UN sanctions remains unlikely, Liu said.

"In order to maintain a normal relationship, China won't adopt all-around sanctions against North Korea. To do so would plunge the relationship into a hostile state and China is unwilling to go as far as that," Liu said.

So far, China's entirely state-controlled media has provided only limited coverage of the North's announcement and remained mum on Wu's mission, possibly to limit the effect on public opinion that has grown increasingly critical of Pyongyang.

China has strong historical, political and financial concerns that factor into its opposition to sanctions that could undermine or even topple reclusive leader Kim Jong Un's hardline communist regime.

China fought against South Korea, the U.S. and their allies in the 1950-53 Korean War and, for years, described their relationship as being "as close as lips and teeth." Beijing fears that political turmoil could send refugees streaming across the border into northeastern China and, ultimately, see U.S. troops occupying what it sees as a crucial buffer with South Korea, where 28,000 troops are based as a legacy of the war that ended with a truce, not a peace treaty.

Additionally, Chinese state companies, private businesses and financial institutions are the chiefly beneficiaries of other countries' shunning North Korea, dealing in fields from tourism to mineral extraction. Harsher measures would affect their bottom line, along with the economy along 1,420-kilometre Chinese-North Korean border.

Still, China's patience with North Korea's snubs and provocations has its limits, said Jin Linbo, a Korea expert at the China Institute of International Studies.

Jin said China would like to try additional steps before tough sanctions are imposed, mainly using inducements to persuade the North to return to six-nation nuclear disarmament talks hosted by Beijing that have been stalled since 2009.

However, if North Korea insists on pushing ahead, "there will be no reason for China to persuade other countries to mitigate the sanctions," Jin said.

"The space remaining for China to manoeuvr diplomatically will become smaller and smaller and the possibilities for China to help North Korea will become fewer and fewer."

-----

Associated Press writer Christopher Bodeen has reported on China for more than 15 years.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Dad of Hawaii boy who vanished in 1997 is sentenced in death

    World News Toronto Sun
    HONOLULU — The father of a 6-year-old Hawaii boy who disappeared two decades ago was sentenced Monday to 20 years in prison for manslaughter, fulfilling a deal with prosecutors that required him to reveal the location of his son’s body. Source
  • Brazilians funneled as 'slaves' by U.S. church, ex-members say

    World News CTV News
    SPINDALE, N.C. -- When Andre Oliveira answered the call to leave his Word of Faith Fellowship congregation in Brazil to move to the mother church in North Carolina at the age of 18, his passport and money were confiscated by church leaders -- for safekeeping, he said he was told. Source
  • Drug overdose suspected in death of Canadian yoga innovator

    Canada News CTV News
    VICTORIA - A Canadian yoga innovator, Buddhist and author has died of a suspected drug overdose after his family said he took street drugs in Victoria. Michael Stone, who offered compassion and collaboration yoga and meditation retreats worldwide, died earlier this month two days after being found unresponsive on July 14. Source
  • Murray Sinclair to probe Thunder Bay police

    Canada News CTV News
    The man who led the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that condemned Canada's history with residential schools will now oversee a probe into a northwestern Ontario city's police services board as the community grapples with tensions between its police force and Indigenous residents. Source
  • ISIS fighters executed

    World News Toronto Sun
    Eighteen ISIS fanatics discovered karma is, indeed, a bitch. Shocking video emerging from Libya shows the 18 men in orange jumpsuits having their brains blown out in summary executions. The jihadists are shown kneeling as their executioners walk behind them before sending them to oblivion with assault rifle bullets to the head. Source
  • Dark web kingpin loved wild Thailand

    World News Toronto Sun
    The Canadian prince of the dark web who hanged himself in a Thai jail cell was enamoured with the Asian country. Alexandre Cazes, 25, committed suicide July 12 as law enforcement was poised to hammer him for running AlphaBay - an online supermarket for dope, guns and sex. Source
  • Toronto-area man charged with hate crime over alleged online comments

    Canada News CTV News
    MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - A Toronto-area man has been charged with a hate crime after police allege he made a number of statements against the Muslim community online. Police would not say what the alleged comments were, only that they were made through social media over five months. Source
  • 4 meetings with Russians disclosed by Jared Kushner

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, disclosed in a statement to members of Congress four distinct interactions with Russians during the presidential campaign and transition period. The 11-page statement provides his first detailed account of meetings over the last year with the Russian ambassador to the United States, a Russian lawyer and a Russian banker. Source
  • 14-year-old girl drowns after trying to save dog in Edmonton

    Canada News CTV News
    A 14-year-old girl has died after trying to rescue a dog in a retention pond in north Edmonton, a family friend confirms to CTV News. Khrystna Maksymova was walking the neighbour’s dog with her younger sister before she died, a family friend told CTV Edmonton. Source
  • Pakistan: Suicide bombing in Lahore kills 26, wounds 54

    World News CTV News
    LAHORE, Pakistan -- A suicide bomber struck near a police team in the eastern city of Lahore Monday killing at least 26 and wounding another 54, many of them police officers. An outlawed Taliban faction claimed responsibility. Source