Rumsfeld: U.S. Welcomes Chinese Influence in North Korea
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
SINGAPORE, June 5, 2005 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld this weekend urged China to become more involved in persuading North Korea to return to six-nation talks -- among the United States, China, Russia, Japan and both Koreas -- and to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, left, and Australian Minister of Defense Sen. Robert Hill conduct a press briefing during the fourth International Institute for Strategic Studies Asia Security Conference in Singapore, June 4. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Cherie A. Thurlby, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Rumsfeld's comments came during his June 4 keynote speech at the Asia Security Conference sponsored by the International Institute for Security Studies. The event is known as the "Shangri-La Dialogue" because of its location in the Shangri-La Hotel here.
"One nation can make a notable contribution in persuading North Korea to return to the Six-Party Talks, and that is China," Rumsfeld said in his speech. "The United States and many other nations in the region seek to cooperate with China in many fields: diplomacy, economics, global security."
It has been one year since North Korea has participated in the Six-Party Talks. The country announced in February that it had manufactured nuclear weapons and would not participate in the talks for an indefinite period.
"It's no secret that we have attempted to ... encourage the Chinese to find new ways to deal with their North Korean friends," a senior defense official traveling with Rumsfeld said today. "And there is broad consensus among all of the other four parties (of the talks) that China is indeed the party that possesses the greatest amount of leverage over the whole situation."
The official noted that there has been "a significant increase" in economic activity between China and North Korea. "North Korea is probably today much more dependent on the flow of economic benefits across that border with China than it has ever been in the past," the official said.
He attributed this increase in trade with China to "other resource bases drying up" for North Korea as the country continues to further isolate itself from the international community, and specifically its Asian neighbors.
"I think over the years, these controls have had the net result of reducing the pool of revenue flow," the official said. "And so what happens is China ends up having a much higher degree, I think, of control over the economic lifeblood of North Korea."
The official also suggested that China stepping up in the North Korean issue would demonstrate that the Chinese government is interesting in building up international goodwill.
"We have consistently held out to the ... Chinese that if they want to find one subject, one area in which they could demonstrate real strategic partnership and strategic cooperation, it is on the North Korean issue," the official said. "It is low-hanging fruit waiting to be plucked, as far as I am concerned, if China were to be interested in deepening the discussion on North Korea."
Some countries participating in the Six-Party Talks have political disagreements with each other, but North Korea's stance on international relations brings the other countries together, the official said.
North Korea as a nuclear power has "a galvanizing effect" on countries in the region, he said.
Appearing today in a short combined media briefing with Rumsfeld, Australian Defense Minister Sen. Robert Hill said he plans to visit China next week and that he will "be urging China to be more proactive on the issue as well."
"They have considerable influence (over North Korea)," Hill said of the Chinese. "And we would like them to use all of that influence to encourage North Korea to return to the table."