March 30, 2003

REMEMBER NORTH KOREA? Looks like some pressure is being brought to bear:

BEIJING – For three straight days in recent weeks, something remarkable happened to the oil pipeline running through northeast China to North Korea – the oil stopped flowing, according to diplomatic sources, temporarily cutting off a vital lifeline for North Korea.

The pipeline shutdown, officially ascribed to a technical problem, followed an unusually blunt message delivered by China to its longtime ally in a high-level meeting in Beijing last month, the sources said. Stop your provocations about the possible development of nuclear weapons, China warned its neighbor, or face Chinese support for economic sanctions against the regime.

Such tough tactics show an unexpected resolve in Beijing’s policy toward Pyongyang, and hint at the nervousness of Chinese leaders about North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and North Korea’s tensions with the United States.

With the Bush administration asking China to take a more active role, Beijing’s application of pressure could convince North Korea to drop its demands for talks exclusively with the United States – a demand that Washington rejects. . . .

“We can’t afford to shield North Korea any longer,” Zhu Feng, an international security expert at Beijing University, said in an interview last month. “There is increasing recognition here if North Korea is finally armed with nuclear weapons, it will be a big threat to China.”

Very interesting. And what surprises me is how long it’s taken the Chinese to realize that nobody, but nobody wants a regime as kooky as North Korea’s on their border, armed with nuclear weapons. Read the whole story, which is chock-full of interesting stuff.

UPDATE: How kooky? This kooky:

ALL triplets in North Korea are being forcibly removed from parents after their birth and dumped in bleak orphanages.

The policy is carried out on the orders of Stalinist dictator Kim Jong-il, who has an irrational belief that a triplet could one day topple his regime.

Sheesh. If I were the Chinese, I’d be worried, too.

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