China reluctant to talk much to U.S. about North

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China reluctant to talk much to U.S. about North

WASHINGTON - China has reportedly refused U.S. proposals to discuss contingency plans in North Korea, apparently to avoid provoking its communist neighbor at a sensitive time of power transition from North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to his youngest son, Jong-un. Kim Jong-il apparently won Beijing’s support for the unprecedented third-generation power transition in the communist state during his two visits to China this year, a rare move for the reclusive leader.

Citing a U.S. diplomatic cable divulged by WikiLeaks, which is devoted to revealing secret documents, The New York Times said yesterday that China has been refusing to cooperate on North Korea issues.

The Times also reported that China has dismissed U.S. requests for information on North Korea’s shipment of missile parts to Iran via Beijing, although U.S. officials believe the North has shipped a number of long-range missiles that could hit Western Europe to Iran, reports said Sunday. China has repeatedly refused to “act on detailed information about shipments of missile parts from North Korea to Beijing, where they were loaded aboard Iran Air flights to Tehran.”

WikiLeaks revealed to some media outlets earlier in the day that it was prepared to release hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables the U.S. State Department has exchanged with its missions abroad, despite the Obama administration’s warning that the leak might undermine the safety of U.S. officials and others working closely with the U.S. government abroad. The Times cited another cable as saying U.S. officials “insisted that North Korea had sent Iran 19 advanced missiles, based on a Russian design, that could clear a path toward the development of long-range missiles.”

The report said: “According to unclassified estimates of their range, though, they would also immediately allow Iran to strike Western Europe or Moscow, essentially the threat the revamped system was designed for. Russia is deeply skeptical that Iran has obtained the advanced missiles, or that their North Korean version, called the BM-25, even exists.”

Pyongyang is suspected of being behind nuclear and missile proliferation in Iran, Syria, Pakistan and several other countries, as arms sales are considered one of the major sources of revenue for North Korea, which has for years been under imposed UN economic sanctions for its nuclear and missile tests.

The leak comes as China is under intense international pressure to persuade North Korea to refrain from heightening tensions and pursuing nuclear weapons programs.

China has been reluctant to sanction North Korea because any instability could result in either a massive influx of North Korean refugees across their shared border or a unified Korean Peninsula under South Korean and U.S. control. Beijing has yet to blame Pyongyang for Tuesday’s shelling of a South Korean island near the Yellow Sea border, in which two marines and two civilians were killed and dozens more were injured.

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