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Lips and Teeth or Boot on Bottom? China-North Korea Relations and Chinas Interests In the North Korean Nuclear Dilemma
Unformatted Document Text:  7 groups put the number as high as 300,000. Some of the refugees have made it to Beijing and have forced their way into the South Korean, Japanese or other embassies seeking asylum, putting China in an awkward position. North Korea wants China to return its refugees, but China is hesitant to force too many of them to return because it is aware that some of them could be jailed or even executed, and in addition it fears the wrath of Western human rights Non-Governmental Organizations if this occurs. The refugee issue becomes even more complicated when top North Korean leaders defect, such as the case with Party Security Hwang Jang-Yop, who defected to the South Korean Embassy in Beijing in February, 1997. After Beijing’s initial refusal to let Hwang leave the country, it eventually stood quietly by as he was spirited away to the Philippines and then on to Seoul, where he has provided a treasure-trove of information to South Korean and American forces. Hwang’s defection and Beijing’s refusal to intervene in the end brought about huge protestations from Pyongyang and a closure of the North Korean border with China for a time. Two other interesting developments occurred in 2003 that suggest tension between Pyongyang and Beijing. In February, China seems to have been sending North Korea a warning by shutting down the oil pipeline between China and North Korea for three days. China provides the bulk of North Korea’s oil and given North Korea’s dire economic straits and its massive energy shortages, any interruption in its oil supplies could be devastating. Then, in September, China is reported to have deployed some 150,000 People’s Liberation Army troops to the border of the 870-mile China-North Korea border. While Chinese officials have admitted that the PLA has taken over for regular border guards, it has denied any deeper implications, saying the deployment was “a normal adjustment carried out after many years of preparations.” 20 Others had a different understanding of the moves, however. "The Chinese traditionally move troops to the borders to send signals to others," said David Shambaugh of George Washington University, an expert on the Chinese military. "This looks like a signal to North Korea…” 21 In 2004 too, there were more signs of tension between Pyongyang and Beijing. On February 21, Japan’s Asahi Shimbun reported that China, acting on a request from the US Central Intelligence Agency, prevented a train passing through China to proceed to North Korea. The train was carrying a shipment of tributyl phosphate, a chemical used to extract weapons-grade plutonium from spent nuclear fuel rods. 22 North Korea of course had removed some 8000 spent fuel rods from international surveillance in 2002 that had been frozen as part of its 1994 agreements with the US, and has been suspected of trying to reprocess the rods for weapons-grade plutonium. A few days later, on the eve of Six Party Talks on the North Korean nuclear crisis in Beijing, the command ship of the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet, the USS Blue Ridge, arrived in Shanghai’s port to pay port call as a part of ongoing military exchanges between China and the United States. While US officials say the port call has no political implications, some analysts think China wanted 20 Philip Pan, “China Deploys Troops on N. Korean Border,” Washington Post (Sep. 16, 2003), p. A13. 21 Philip Pan, “China Deploys Troops on N. Korean Border,” Washington Post (Sep. 16, 2003), p. A13. 22 Agence France Presse, “China Stopped Nuclear-Related Chemical Bound for North Korea: Japan Daily” (February 21, 2004).

Authors: Moore, Gregory.
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7
groups put the number as high as 300,000. Some of the refugees have made it to Beijing
and have forced their way into the South Korean, Japanese or other embassies seeking
asylum, putting China in an awkward position. North Korea wants China to return its
refugees, but China is hesitant to force too many of them to return because it is aware that
some of them could be jailed or even executed, and in addition it fears the wrath of
Western human rights Non-Governmental Organizations if this occurs. The refugee issue
becomes even more complicated when top North Korean leaders defect, such as the case
with Party Security Hwang Jang-Yop, who defected to the South Korean Embassy in
Beijing in February, 1997. After Beijing’s initial refusal to let Hwang leave the country,
it eventually stood quietly by as he was spirited away to the Philippines and then on to
Seoul, where he has provided a treasure-trove of information to South Korean and
American forces. Hwang’s defection and Beijing’s refusal to intervene in the end
brought about huge protestations from Pyongyang and a closure of the North Korean
border with China for a time.
Two other interesting developments occurred in 2003 that suggest tension
between Pyongyang and Beijing. In February, China seems to have been sending North
Korea a warning by shutting down the oil pipeline between China and North Korea for
three days. China provides the bulk of North Korea’s oil and given North Korea’s dire
economic straits and its massive energy shortages, any interruption in its oil supplies
could be devastating. Then, in September, China is reported to have deployed some
150,000 People’s Liberation Army troops to the border of the 870-mile China-North
Korea border. While Chinese officials have admitted that the PLA has taken over for
regular border guards, it has denied any deeper implications, saying the deployment was
“a normal adjustment carried out after many years of preparations.”
20
Others had a
different understanding of the moves, however. "The Chinese traditionally move troops
to the borders to send signals to others," said David Shambaugh of George Washington
University, an expert on the Chinese military. "This looks like a signal to North
Korea…”
21
In 2004 too, there were more signs of tension between Pyongyang and Beijing.
On February 21, Japan’s Asahi Shimbun reported that China, acting on a request from the
US Central Intelligence Agency, prevented a train passing through China to proceed to
North Korea. The train was carrying a shipment of tributyl phosphate, a chemical used to
extract weapons-grade plutonium from spent nuclear fuel rods.
22
North Korea of course
had removed some 8000 spent fuel rods from international surveillance in 2002 that had
been frozen as part of its 1994 agreements with the US, and has been suspected of trying
to reprocess the rods for weapons-grade plutonium. A few days later, on the eve of Six
Party Talks on the North Korean nuclear crisis in Beijing, the command ship of the US
Navy’s Seventh Fleet, the USS Blue Ridge, arrived in Shanghai’s port to pay port call as
a part of ongoing military exchanges between China and the United States. While US
officials say the port call has no political implications, some analysts think China wanted
20
Philip Pan, “China Deploys Troops on N. Korean Border,”
Washington Post (Sep. 16, 2003), p. A13.
21
Philip Pan, “China Deploys Troops on N. Korean Border,”
Washington Post (Sep. 16, 2003), p. A13.
22
Agence France Presse, “China Stopped Nuclear-Related Chemical Bound for North Korea: Japan Daily”
(February 21, 2004).


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