Naval blockade of N. Korea in preparation, China pressed to go along

Fred Feldman ffeldman at
Sun Jul 13 13:23:50 MDT 2003

Beijing weighs up, then rejects, invasion of N Korea

By Hamish McDonald, Sydney Morning Herald Correspondent in Beijing and
Tom Allard
July 9 2003

China asked its military to study a quick intervention in North Korea
but decided that its relationship with the United States was more
important than propping up the Stalinist state, with which it shares a

A source in Beijing said the study for a pre-emptive Chinese invasion
was ordered by a Chinese Communist Party working group formed in late
February under the country's senior leader, Hu Jintao.

The result of the study was negative. The People's Liberation Army
concluded that although the Chinese-North Korean border was only
defended, the Chinese lacked the logistical capability of racing to
demilitarised zone facing South Korea.

"That this kind of thing is being considered in China tells us about
gravity with which this is being regarded in Beijing," said a senior
Western diplomat closely following the crisis.

The source said the Chinese working group took the view that China's
economic interests in keeping regional stability and co-operative
relations with the US far outweighed its strategic stake in North

Moreover, it is now confident that Korean nationalism would see the
Americans off, should the peninsula be reunified under the Seoul

China's role in bringing about a resolution to the nuclear
in the Korean peninsula is vital, and its preparedness to accept a
democratic, capitalist and unified Korea on its border is a
development that will please the West.

But China is yet to be persuaded about other initiatives from the West
to curb North Korea's nuclear threat.

Most notably, it has yet to back a co-ordinated multinational effort
intercept North Korean vessels and aircraft transporting nuclear
material, weapons of mass destruction, missiles and related

The so-called Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) holds its second
meeting in Brisbane today, with senior defence and foreign affairs
officials from 11 countries taking part.

An Australian foreign affairs official said yesterday that military
capability and intelligence sharing would be the main topics for

"We need to be able to make sure that our military are capable of
the things that will be needed . . . if the Government decided it
such interdiction to take place," the official said.

The Minister for Defence, Senator Robert Hill, had been closely
in developing the policy, and senior uniformed and civilian defence
officials from Australia would be attending the meeting, the official

The PSI favours participating countries intercepting North Korean and
other suspect vessels in their own waters as a first step. But a
multinational force roaming international waters could evolve over
perhaps with United Nations approval.

Denying overflight rights for suspicious North Korean aircraft is also
main item on the agenda, with "robust" action to force them down among
the options outlined last week by John Bolton, US undersecretary of
state for arms control.

The PSI is anxious for China to come on board, and Mr Bolton has had
discussions with Chinese officials about the "selective interdiction"

But North Korea experts in China warn that a proposed naval blockade
prevent North Korean exports of missiles and other weapons of mass
destruction will face kamikaze-type attacks from a desperate regime.

The annual $A900 million earned from missile sales is the main source
hard currency for Pyongyang, far exceeding other sources such as
remittances from ethnic Koreans in Japan.

Analysts in Beijing are taking seriously Pyongyang's warnings that it
would consider interceptions of its ships and aircraft an act of war
strike back.

But Mr Bolton dismissed this threat. "The North Koreans are filled
bluster," he said before leaving Washington for Brisbane.


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