Re: Did China assist North Korea missile launch?

Article Highlights

  • If the Obama administration wants to fix the North Korean problem, the road doesn’t lie through Beijing

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  • It’s folly to expect Beijing to seriously help in curbing Pyongyang. It is in league with the Kim regime

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  • If China allowed missile parts shipments from North Korea to Iran in 2007, it was in complete disregard of U.N. resolutions

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Editor's Note: This post was written in response to a prior post on this topic written by Patrick Brennan on The Corner, the blog of National Review Online.

Patrick, if it’s true that Beijing helped North Korea by supplying or providing specs for a mobile rocket launcher, it would be just another entry in the list of Chinese actions enabling North Korean aggression, as well as helping Iran in its nuclear ambitions. Back in 2007, as WikiLeaks revealed, Secretary of State Rice ordered the U.S. ambassador in Beijing to raise the issue of Chinese transshipments of key ballistic missile parts from North Korea to Iran. One reason why some suspect few or no North Korean ships were ever found carrying prohibited materials on the oceans (which the Proliferation Security Initiative was organized for), was that most of Pyongyang’s proliferation was done with tacit Chinese support — using their air and land routes to send materials to the Middle East.

When President Bush raised the issue with Hu Jintao in 2007 at the APEC Summit in Sydney, U.N. Resolutions 1695 and 1718 had already been passed (in 2006), demanding that North Korea cease all activities related to its missile and nuclear programs. Thus, if China was still allowing transshipments in 2007, they were doing so in complete disregard of existing U.N. resolutions and sanctions, in essence abetting the North’s evasion of the resolution.

This is why it’s folly to expect Beijing to seriously help in curbing Pyongyang. They are in league with the Kim regime, and have chosen (for whatever reason — and there is debate about the reasons) to enable the continued existence and aggression of the North. If the Obama administration wants to fix the North Korean problem, the road doesn’t lie through Beijing. It lies through cutting off further negotiations with Pyongyang until we see a material change in the regime’s behavior. Until then, we have to prepare our allies to defend themselves against even the slightest provocation from the North. Otherwise, there will be a miscalculation one day that will lead to conflict.

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About the Author


  • Michael Auslin is a resident scholar and the director of Japan Studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he studies Asian regional security and political issues.

    Before joining AEI, he was an associate professor of history at Yale University. A prolific writer, Auslin is a biweekly columnist for The Wall Street Journal Asia, which is distributed globally on His longer writings include the book “Pacific Cosmopolitans: A Cultural History of U.S.-Japan Relations” (Harvard University Press, 2011) and the study “Security in the Indo-Pacific Commons: Toward a Regional Strategy” (AEI Press, 2010). He was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, a Marshall Memorial Fellow by the German Marshall Fund, and a Fulbright and Japan Foundation Scholar.

    Auslin has a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, an M.A. from Indiana University at Bloomington, and a B.S.F.S. from Georgetown University.

    Follow Michael Auslin on Twitter.

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