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Beijing's new urgency over N Korea

By CNN Senior China Analyst Willy Wo-Lap Lam

Beijing has been goaded into taking a more proactive diplomatic stance with Pyongyang.
Beijing has been goaded into taking a more proactive diplomatic stance with Pyongyang.

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BEIJING, China (CNN) -- Beijing has vowed to keep up the pressure on North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.

However, it wants the U.S. to make a firmer -- and more formal -- declaration of non-aggression against North Korea should the latter agree to climb down on the production of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

And differences between the approaches of China and the U.S., coupled with Pyongyang's intransigence, has made it less likely a breakthrough can be reached before September 9, when North Korea may test a nuclear weapon and declare itself a member of the "nuclear club."

U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton left China on Tuesday without any announcement about a second meeting between representatives of the U.S., China and North Korea.

The first meeting in April, which was brokered by Beijing, was unfruitful.

Recent efforts by Beijing's special envoy on North Korea, Deputy Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo to break the impasse by visiting Pyongyang, Moscow and Washington also generated little concrete progress.

Diplomatic analysts and Chinese sources in Beijing said, however, that despite the apparent stalemate, some significant shifts had taken place in the multinational dynamics over nuclear crisis.

Efforts praised

They said Beijing had demonstrated a new urgency towards reining-in leader Kim Jong Il's WMD gambit.

"Beijing's latest assessment of the maturity of the North Korean nuclear program is such that China itself feels intimidated," said a Chinese source.

This had goaded the leadership of President Hu Jintao into taking a much more proactive diplomatic stance.

Chinese intelligence officials are also assessing reports that the North Koreans might be moving some of their WMD-manufacturing capacities closer to the Chinese border, so that the U.S. would have second thoughts about launching missile strikes against these targets.

While discussing North Korea with his hosts, Bolton praised China's diplomatic efforts to defuse the crisis. (Full story)

However, Bolton and other senior U.S. officials were cool to Beijing's argument that China could only get Pyongyang to play ball if the U.S. were to make a formal statement of non-aggression against the communist state.

Beijing has also expressed alarm about recent American military maneuvers in South Korea and neighboring countries with a possible purpose of targeting North Korea.


A commentary in the official China News Service on Tuesday said Washington's recent deployment of high-tech, rapid-response units in South Korea was an effort to "put more military pressure on North Korea."

The Chinese leadership has all along indicated it can only exert pressure on North Korea if the U.S. were to de-escalate military preparations against the Kim regime.

"The U.S. has to do its part in defusing the crisis," said international affairs specialist Shi Yinhong of People's University.

"Among policymakers in China, many believe that while Pyongyang is 60 percent or 70 percent responsible for the current crisis, Washington's share is 30 percent to 40% percent," Professor Shi said.

Political analysts in Beijing said Hu, now in charge of China's foreign affairs, had scheduled numerous brainstorming sessions on North Korea with his advisers.

They said a resolution of the crisis would immensely bolster Hu's domestic standing in addition to raising China's profile in the global arena.

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