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

  • Dear Santa, 'help them agree': Girl, 9, seeks end to N.S. teachers' dispute

    Canada News CTV News
    Layla El-Azzi’s letter to Santa Claus wasn’t a wish list filled with items such as a new bike, or clothes or the latest toy even. In fact, it wasn’t a list at all. The nine-year-old girl had one simple request for Saint Nick this year – to end the dispute between Nova Scotia’s government and the province’s public school teachers. Source
  • Trump picks fast-food CEO as labour secretary

    World News CBC News
    U.S. president-elect Donald Trump named fast-food executive Andy Puzder to head the Department of Labor on Thursday, drawing criticism from labour advocates worried about his opposition to a higher minimum wage and government regulation of the workplace. Source
  • 'Just a fun thing': SFU swimmers explain their dip in the snow

    Canada News CTV News
    Members of the Simon Fraser University swim team shed their coats and kicked off their boots as they went “swimming” on a snow covered football field. Donning only speedos and goggles, the group of swimmers dove into the shin-deep snow – unusual for Burnaby, B.C. Source
  • U.S. regulators mull allowing in-flight phone calls via plane's Wi-Fi

    World News CBC News
    Airlines could let passengers make in-flight phone calls using Wi-Fi under a proposal from federal regulators. Flight attendants and others have complained that the calls could be disruptive. But the Department of Transportation said Thursday that it envisioned allowing the calls if airlines tell all customers about the policy when they buy their tickets. Source
  • Paris battles rat infestations

    World News CTV News
    PARIS - Both the rat and Nadine Mahe des Portes panicked when she inadvertently stepped on the rodent on her walk back from work through Paris. "I heard a terrible squeak," the property agent recalled with a shudder. Source
  • Rats! Paris fights back against rodent infestation

    World News CTV News
    PARIS -- Both Nadine Mahe des Portes and the rat panicked when she inadvertently stepped on it on her walk back from work through Paris. "I heard a terrible squeak," the property agent recalled with a shudder. Source
  • Students rattled after thwarted plot to attack Toronto school

    Canada News CTV News
    An online threat against a Toronto high school was written by a student who attended classes with the same students police say he threatened to kill. Police say, on Tuesday morning, a 17-year-old male was arrested for allegedly plotting an attack against Oakwood C.I. Source
  • Separate bombings kill 10 in Baghdad

    World News CTV News
    FILE -- In this Oct, 22, 2016 file photo, Iraqi security forces inspect one of the damaged buildings after deadly clashes between Iraqi security forces and members of the Islamic state in the city of Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq. Source
  • South Korean president is impeached in stunning fall [Video]

    World News Toronto Sun
    SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of — South Korean lawmakers on Friday impeached President Park Geun-hye, a stunning and swift fall for the country’s first female leader amid protests that drew millions into the streets in united fury. After the vote, parliamentary officials hand-delivered formal documents to the presidential Blue House that stripped Park of her power and allowed the country’s No. Source
  • Hundreds reportedly missing after fleeing Aleppo

    World News CBC News
    Hundreds of civilians streamed out of eastern Aleppo by foot on Friday as Syrian troops and allied forces waged a relentless campaign to drive rebels from their rapidly crumbling enclave. Russia announced Thursday that the Syrian army was suspending combat operations to allow for the evacuation of civilians from besieged rebel-held districts, but residents and medics inside eastern Aleppo said there was no letup in the bombardment. Source