China's leverage is needed to control North Korea
The U.N. Security Council is considering sanctions against North Korea following its claimed nuclear weapons test.
THE Bush administration is proposing a list of possible sanctions to be used against North Korea following its claimed nuclear weapons test, but the only effective leverage rests with China. While China joined other members of the United Nations Security Council in denouncing the nuclear test, North Korea is likely to ignore such condemnation unless China applies pressure.
The United States has been unsuccessful in the past to persuade China and South Korea to cut off energy supplies and trade to Pyongyang. The only effect that U.S. sanctions appear to have had is North Korea's continuing refusal to return to six-party talks with the United States, South Korea, Japan, China and Russia.
Following the nuclear test, the United States has proposed U.N. sanctions that include a trade ban on military and luxury items, the power to inspect all cargo entering or leaving the country and freezing assets connected to weapons programs. The Treasury Department began last year to sever North Korean ties to foreign banks because of counterfeiting and other crimes.
The failure of the July 4 missile tests does not mean that North Korea lacks the potential to be a threat in the future. Pyongyang shot a three-stage rocket over Japan in 1998 and is believed to be developing a next-generation line of missiles capable of reaching Hawaii and perhaps the West Coast.
Questions are being raised about North Korea's claim to have tested a nuclear device. While the Russian government estimated its strength at 5 to 15 kilotons, judging from the blast, a U.S. intelligence official estimated it as "a sub-kiloton explosion," extremely small for a nuclear weapon.
China joined other nations in urging North Korea to drop its plan to conduct missile tests in July, but the tests were carried out. Beijing has been reluctant to cut off oil to Pyongyang out of concern that it would create political and economic chaos.
China used its influence to bring North Korea into the six-party talks. Its ambassador to the U.N. warned the North last week about "serious consequences" that would follow nuclear tests. The fact that Pyongyang went ahead with both the missile and nuclear tests is a blow to China's claim of influence on its neighbor.
Following the test, China called it a "flagrant and brazen" violation of international opinion and said it "firmly opposes" North Korea's conduct. Words will not be enough of a response by China to Pyongyang's nuclear activity.
A nuclear North Korea is a serious threat that could lead to a regional nuclear arms race that could include Japan and South Korea. China should stand in the way of such a dangerous predicament.
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