05 April 2006

China Tries To Kick-Start Korean Nuke Talks

Beijing is trying a last push to restart the six-party nuclear talks ahead of president Hu Jintao's visit to Washington. Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan is in Pyongyang (and will visit Seoul as part of his multi-nation tour which also includes stops in Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore), Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchiao said at his bi-weekly press conference that "resumption is in the hands of the DPRK and the U.S.," and Chinese representatives will be part of the annual Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue (NEACD) seminar in Tokyo where North Korea, South Korea, Russian and U.S. representatives will also attend.

For Beijing, there is little room for major steps on the yuan or trade balance issue, and Hu wants to have something to pull out in Washington to at least attract the attention of Bush. But perhaps more importantly, China sees this as the last opportunity to restart the stalled talks, as Washington has made it clear that, barring progress this spring, talks are off and the follow-on plan (what little there is of it) will be minor needling on economic and human rights issues and other harassment tactics. This makes North Korea neither a valuable card for China to play in relations with the united States nor a state with much chance to move toward at least a moderate economic restructuring, leaving Beijing to maintain the life-support for its increasingly tumor-like neighbor.

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