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Make this test fail.

Byline: The Register-Guard

North Korea has been able to ignore international pressure to halt its nuclear weapons program for two reasons. First is North Korea's isolation and the indifference of its leader, Kim Jong Il, to the suffering of his people. The second is China, which has more leverage over North Korea than any other nation but has been reluctant to use it. In the wake of North Korea's apparent test of a nuclear device Monday, China's policy of accommodation must change.

China and North Korea are allies for historical, ideological and practical reasons - they are "as close as lips and teeth," the Chinese government says. It was China whose intervention during the Korean War helped make permanent the post-World War II partition of the peninsula. While the two countries have followed radically different paths, they share the vocabulary of Marxist-Leninism, a bond that has tightened since the collapse of the Soviet Union. And China fears that change in North Korea would cause millions of refugees to pour across the border.

Monday's nuclear blast, however, threatens to bring changes of far greater magnitude than a refugee crisis. While there are doubts about the power of Monday's explosion and about whether North Korea has a device that could be delivered to a target, the test clearly constitutes a threat to neighboring nations. Any military confrontation on the peninsula now brings a nuclear risk, and it's possible to imagine a nuclear arms race in East Asia spreading to Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and perhaps others.

The United States' diplomatic aim is consistent, and simple: a non-nuclear North Korea. A North Korea bomb is a threat to the 30,000 American troops stationed in South Korea, and the 50,000 in Japan. The United States also fears that North Korea would have few scruples about selling nuclear technology and equipment to willing buyers.

But American efforts to thwart Kim's nuclear ambitions have plainly failed. Short of military action, the United States has employed nearly all the sanctions at its disposal in response to previous provocations ranging from counterfeiting to nuclear rule-breaking. Attempts to buy North Korea's cooperation have eventually led to demands for further concessions. The Bush administration, realizing the weakness of its position, has insisted that discussions of North Korea's nuclear program also include China, Russia, South Korea and Japan.

South Korea, Russia and Japan all condemned North Korea's nuclear blast. But it was China's response that really counts. The Chinese foreign ministry said it was "resolutely opposed" to the test, and China joined the United Nations Security Council in denouncing it.

The United States was working Monday on a set of U.N. sanctions that would include a ban on trade in military and luxury goods, a freeze on assets related to North Korea's nuclear program, and inspections of cargo entering or leaving North Korean ports. Academic analysts in China, presumably speaking with government approval, predicted that China would support such sanctions, and might even cut off oil and food shipments.

North Korea has proved itself willing to bear international condemnation and sanctions, so long as China kept the supply lines open. Now it's up to China to ensure that Monday's test brings real consequences. North Korea must understand that its nuclear test, whatever its technical result, was a political failure - and only China is in a position to make the teeth bite the lips.
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Title Annotation:Editorials; China is key in responding to North Korea
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Oct 10, 2006
Words:564
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