May 2, 2012 -
The following blog by Rep. Ed Royce appeared in The Hill's Congress Blog: Top U.S. officials – including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – are in Beijing this week for the latest installment of the "strategic and economic dialogue." With Iran, North Korea, trade – and now an escaped blind human rights activist – there is certainly plenty to talk about.
In preparing, U.S. officials were doing their best to spin the two countries as being in sync. Friday morning, the New York Times ran a page one article, "U.S. Sees Positive Signs From China on Security Issues."
Quite the headline. Especially considering it comes only weeks after North Korea attempted a missile launch. Most believe a third North Korean nuclear test could come very soon. Neither effort would be possible without China's generous subsidies. A Chinese official recently hailed the China-North Korea relationship as a "precious gem.", far from a "positive sign."
It gets even more awkward given North Korea’s 100th birthday bash for founder Kim Il Sung, when missiles were paraded through Pyongyang. Some might be fakes, but definitely not fake was the 16-wheel truck launcher. Top experts say it was likely based on a Chinese design, whose transfer would have required a sign-off from Beijing.
Reuters reports that the Chinese firm that provided North Korea with the body of the transport vehicle is pretty open about the transaction, a violation of U.N. sanctions. Historically, China has been one of North Korea’s largest arms suppliers.
The possible sanctions violation caught on tape got people’s attention. Foreign Affairs Committee members were focused on it at a recent hearing.
But when asked about the reports, a State Department spokesman noted that, "China has provided repeated assurances that it’s complying fully with [U.N. sanctions]… I think we take them at their word."
When did "trust but verify" become blind trust?
Some make the excuse that China can’t quite control all the companies on its territory, but this particular company is a subsidiary of state-owned China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation. At the Foreign Affairs hearing, one top Asia expert told how sanctioned North Korean trading companies continue to operate openly in China.
Instead of an "at their word" policy, Chinese companies violating U.N. sanctions should be identified and sanctioned. Crucially, the Chinese banks that facilitate the sales should be targeted. Blacklist one, and I bet China gets a better handle on the "rogue companies" operating on its soil.
Aggressive steps like these would help minimize the threat from North Korea. However, they wouldn’t produce the "moving in the right direction" headline the White House helped engineer.