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As China Balks Again, Who Benefits?

It was earlier noted that China's widely reported inspections of North Korean cargo coming in through the land border between the two communist states was essentially window dressing by admission of China's own Arms Control and Disarmament Association. Initially, we gave the Chinese the benefit of the doubt in mentioning that "the greatest proliferation-policing challenge remains off the North Korean coastline and in the air, not along the Chinese land border."

Now we learn that China has now also made it clear that it objects to boarding and inspecting North Korea's ships as well, giving credence to the suspicion that China does not support the sanctions it approved as much as would be implied by its Security Council vote.

China is balking at stopping and searching North Korean ships for banned weapons and materials, creating tension with Washington over U.N. Security Council sanctions for the North's nuclear test.

Beijing fears that such searches might trigger military clashes, and that the U.S. may use them to police wider shipping, analysts said Tuesday.

"If intelligence can prove the ships are loaded with dangerous material, I don't think Beijing would be opposed to stopping them," said Zhu Feng, a professor at Peking University's School of International Relations. "But we just worry that the United States will abuse its naval power."

China says the resolution does not obligate it to interdict ships.

The issue will likely be high on the agenda when U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visits Beijing this week.

The reasoning behind the passive nature of the Chinese cargo inspections along the border that did take place was offered by Xu Guangyu of Beijing’s government-sponsored China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, who said that China “just doesn’t engage in that sort of trade with North Korea,” meaning trade that would need to be inspected. China's objection to interdicting and inspecting North Korean cargo ships implies that it thinks no other country would “engage in that sort of trade with North Korea,” either.

While some may lend argument to the Chinese logic of fear that the US might 'abuse its naval power,' let's keep in mind that North Korea is detonating plutonium bombs and that its missile technology is already proliferated throughout the world. And as it detonates these tests, whether they fail or are successful, North Korea overtly threatens both Japan and the United States with their use, just as Iran less than subtly threatens Israel with its missile arsenal built principally on proliferated weapons and technology from North Korea.

Yet China objects once again to any tangible action against North Korean shipping in order to prevent proliferation, most likely to the Iranian partner that China itself shares and - with regard to its nuclear program - protects.

Let's be clear: If China did not want North Korea to have a nuclear weapons program, there would not be one to stir over to begin with. Strip away the diplo-speak for just a moment, and that reality is quite unmistakably evident.

So one must ask: If China truly objects to North Korea's test - and thus its weapons program - who else is benefiting from it that China does not simply end it? After all, while the world would trip over itself in free-flowing criticism if the United States took out North Korean nuclear facilities with 'unilateral' airstrikes, who would so much as clear a throat if China did the same through strikes or any other means?

So, who does benefit that China offers initial words of criticism but no tangible actions to either halt the North Korean nuclear weapons program or prevent its proliferation?

The answer is written in Farsi, with Chinese and Cyrillic footnotes.