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On North Korea’s Nuclear Program

[Editor’s Note: The following are two reports from Xinhua, China’s state news agency, commenting on U.S. and Japan on dealing with North Korea’s nuclear program.]

Since the United States Cuts Off North Korea’s Nuclear Funding, China Should Maintain an Independent Policy

Source: Xinhuanet, March 4, 2005

According to International Herald Tribune, a U.S. high-level official disclosed that the United States will initiate a new “international network” to cut off North Korea’s nuclear funding obtained by “illegal methods.”

U.S. New “International Network” Targets North Korea

The network, called “organized pressure system,” was established by the United States and includes South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong. The measures are aimed at severing North Korea’s illicit funding from counterfeiting, drug trafficking and missile sales. The network members will monitor North Korea’s moves and expose its “illegal activities.” The United States has suspected that North Korea developed its nuclear program through illegal funding and hopes to freeze the sources of illegal funds. Japanese media point out that if coordination of China does not achieve the anticipated results, the United States will request China to join the network. The United States will not submit the proposal of “network” to the United Nations, but rather discuss the plan with parties involved in the G-6 summit. This certainly is not the first U.S. attempt to isolate North Korea. Two years ago, the Untied States proposed the so-called “Madrid Plan.” The plan requires interception of ships and planes suspected to engage in illegal trade with North Korea. The “Madrid Plan” was endorsed by Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Holland, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Australia but went nowhere after threats from North Korea. According to experts, in October 2004, the United States, Japan, France and Australia tried to establish an “encirclement network,” but to no avail due to lack of support from Russia and China.

Counterfeit “Marlboro” Made by North Korea?

The U.S. and Japanese media have put out all kinds of “fabricated” evidence in order to prove that North Korea profits from illegal activities.

The Japanese Kyodo News Agency, citing anonymous sources, points out that the massive counterfeit Marlboro cigarettes recently discovered in Japan and the United States might have originated from North Korea. Japanese media also point out those Korean counterfeit cigarettes that are widely sold in Europe with sales exceeding one billion U.S. dollars have been directly supported by North Korean government. In addition, North Korea is also suspected of profiting from money laundry in Macau and Taiwan and from counterfeiting U.S. dollars and Japanese yen. The Japanese report even points out that the popularity of money verification machines in Japan is related to Korean counterfeit money.

The United States has accused that North Korea has not ceased and desisted drug trafficking. Korea’s narcotic transactions already occupy a substantial share of the Japanese narcotics market and reportedly are related with the Hong Kong mafias.

North Korean Central News Agency issued a statement, “These (accusations related to narcotics and counterfeit money) are nothing but part of the Bush administration’s idiotic attempts to isolate North Korea.”

China Should Maintain Independent Policy

Zhang Liangui, an expert on Korean nuclear issues and professor at Chinese Communist Party School, pointed out that the United States exposed North Korean’s “illegal acts” in the midst of the nuclear crisis in an attempt to further demonize and pressure North Korea. Zhang Liangui told International Herald Tribune that the United States has determined the “three crimes” committed by North Korea: growing narcotics by military, organizing counterfeiting activities by the government and engaging in smuggling by diplomats. The United States has even monitored or controlled money remitted to North Korea by Koreans residing in South Korea and Japan. In fact, North Korea could not have depended on these sources of funding for its nuclear program. These are just excuses and means used by the United States to suppress North Korea. Zhang Liangui believed that the United States has always wanted to isolate North Korea. Because North Korea borders with China, it is impossible to completely isolate North Korea without China’s support. The United States worries that China will not support such proposal through the United Nations. Therefore the United States takes the nuclear crisis as an opportunity to request China’s co-operation in “choking” North Korea, hoping that in doing so the United States will gain international media support. “It is not possible for China to stand on the U.S. side and join the U.S. ‘encirclement net.’ China should have its own independent policy towards North Korea, one that is in the middle,” said Zhang.

Experts point out that besides China, South Korea and Russia are not likely to approve the U.S. plan. The Korean nuclear crisis needs to be resolved through diplomacy. The U.S. “encirclement net” stems from self-interests and is useless as solution to the problem.

Why Does Japan Still Threaten to Sanction North Korea?

Source: Xinhuanet, February 2, 2005

According to American media reports, on February 1, Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi further elaborated on the Japanese government’s position on applying economic sanctions to pressure North Korea. He said, “We should consider which approach is most effective. Economic sanction is the most effective way to exert pressure.”

Japanese media sources also reported that the Japanese government has begun to discuss the details of economic sanctions and to consult with other related countries in order to obtain understanding from them.

Here is the story. On January 30, Michael Green, Director of Asian Affairs for the U.S. National Security Council, met with Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda. Both sides discussed issues such as revising the cooperation guidelines on national defense to further clarify the respective functions of each country, strengthening military cooperation, promoting integration of safety and security of the two countries and etc. At the same time, Green asked Hosoda to present President Bush’s personal letter to Japan’s Prime Minister Koizumi. Hosoda said, “Bush stated in his letter that he hopes to strengthen the trust and friendship between Japan and the United States that has been built up over the past four years, and to work hard to make progress in the discussions among the six countries on the Korean Peninsula nuclear crisis.” However, it is reported, in this personal letter Bush also urged Japan not to be anxious to impose economic sanctions on North Korea, and advised Japan to consult with the United States on the North Korea issue.

On January 31, Green held a discussion with Shinzo Abe, Acting Secretary General of the ruling coalition led by the Liberal Democratic Party. On the North Korea issue, Shinzo Abe indicated that Japan was “already at the point of having to consider imposing economic sanctions on North Korea.” Shinzo Abe commented on the dispute of whether the ashes of the Japanese victim kidnapped by North Korea were fraudulent or not, and stated that Japan had reached a difficult stage that “it is impossible to solve the issue through negotiation.” Green expressed his understanding on the issue and said that it was understandable, from the perspective of “dialogue and pressure.” Both sides agreed that the two countries should cooperate closely from then on.

Not long ago, Japan and North Korea had a dispute over the ashes of the kidnapped Japanese victim. Japan released the DNA test, which proved that the ashes of the kidnapped victim, Megumi Yokota, given by North Korea to Japan were not those of the victim. But North Korea repudiated the test result, claiming that Japan had faked the result.

Prior to the event, the Japanese government was hesitant to impose economic sanctions. Now it claims that it does not rule out the sanction measure. For the first time, Shinzo Abe expressed that Japan does not accept North Korea’s response regarding the remains of the kidnapped victim, and would consult with appropriate parties on the sanction matter. On January 30, Shinzo Abe proposed more specifically in a TV program that Japan was considering whether to ban the export of marine products to North Korea, which would “cut off the economy lifeline to North Korea’s government.” He also indicated that details would be available in February.

Bush advised Japan not to rush to impose sanctions against North Korea. Japan seeks to punish North Korea because of the DNA test results on the remains of the victim. Obviously, it is an excuse. Green, Director of Asian Affairs for the U.S. National Security Council, apparently had an important mission to visit Japan. He is well trusted by the White House with his excellent Japanese language and close ties with Japan’s politicians and media. The mission of his visit to Japan was to discuss how to revise the guidelines of the defense cooperation between the two countries to further strengthen military cooperation. Yet, it is quite thought provoking that Japan shows that it will impose sanctions on North Korea over the DNA test results.

Japan is the U.S.’s No. 1 ally in the Asia and Pacific region. The Bush Administration has frequently expressed the need to strengthen its relationship with Japan. Bush lists North Korea as being among the countries of “the Axis of Evil.” State Secretary Rice puts North Korea on the black list of those that “threaten the global promotion of freedom and democracy, as well as international security.” At the same time, Koizumi’s government acts like the “foot soldier” of the United States. In fact, the Bush Administration has been hoping to put North Korea to an end. It is just U.S.’s tactics to advise Japan “not to be eager to apply economic sanctions to North Korea.” At the moment, Japan standing up to express that it wants to punish North Korea not only serves the U.S. fundamental interests, but also is what Japan is expected to do.

Among the six countries participating in the talks on the Korean Peninsula nuclear crisis, the United States and Japan naturally remain the closest allies. Bush has put the resolution of the Korean nuclear issue on his agenda for his second term. Currently, two delegations of congressmen from the Republican Party and the Democratic Party visited North Korea one after another, with the intention to urge North Korea to return to the talks with the six countries. North Korea also sent out their good intention, stating that North Korean leaders studied Bush’s foreign policy after Bush won the reelection and that, if the United States ceases and desists “slandering” North Korea’s political system and interfering with North Korea’s internal affairs, North Korea would be willing to solve the conflict between the two countries, and would resume the talk with the six countries. On one hand, the United States held carrots for North Korea; on the other hand, Japan held up the big stick of “economic sanctions.” The pressures from two different directions are pushing North Korea back to the negotiation table.

People have observed that, while the United States and Japan discussed their military cooperation, representatives from Chinese Department of Defense and from U.S. Department of Defense were holding a conference in Beijing for the first time. The parties held frank and practical talks. Both sides concluded that Sino-U.S. military relationship is one of the major components of the relationship between the two countries, that the military relationship is developing well, and that the future is promising. U.S. State Secretary Rice recently indicated that the United States hopes that the talks with the six countries would solve the Korean nuclear crisis and that China has played an important role in the talks and would continue to play an active role. China’s important role in the talks is what the Japanese government does not want to see. At this time Japan threatens to commence sanctions against North Korea. It not only puts pressure on North Korea, but also creates obstacles for the resumption of dialogue among the six countries, with the intent to antagonize the relationship between China and the United States. The Japanese government obviously wants to “kill two birds with one stone.”