Tag Archives: Nuclear Weapons

China reduces Iran oil buy as US and EU sanctions loom

The United States and the European Union’s increasingly firm stance against Iran’s nuclear ambitions have, as my colleague Raymond Karam writes, potentially undermined the security of mideast oil supply.

In the face of sanctions, Iran has had one relatively stable customer in China, but The Telegraph reports today that China has reduced its oil purchases and expressed firm opposition to Iran developing nuclear weapons.

“China adamantly opposes Iran developing and possessing nuclear weapons,” [Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao] said. …

The Washington Post reported that China trimmed its oil imports from Iran in January from a daily average of around 550,000 barrels to 285,000 barrels a day. …

“Iran would not have wanted China to make this statement, but Iran must understand that if it comes down to a choice China will not alienate itself from the rest of the world for the sake of single country,” said Yu Guoqing, a researcher on the Middle East at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. [full story]

This is an interesting year for international relations. The world may not end (notwithstanding the brief absence of Wikipedia), but presidential elections in the United States and Russia, a leadership transition in China, and parliamentary elections in Iran all make for less predictability.

[UPDATE Sun Jan 22 00:41:06 EST 2012] WSJ writes: “China’s imports from Iran could decline in the months ahead due to a dispute over commercial issues between China International United Petroleum & Chemicals Co., known as Unipec, and National Iranian Oil Co. Unipec has skipped imports of about 220,000 barrels a day from Iran in January and further delays could affect February orders as well.” So, though the international context continues to exist, there are of course other things going on…

Will the U.S.–China Hotline Be Red?

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is on a trip to East Asia, beginning with China, and the United States and China have agreed on a military hotline. I’ve checked with the Pentagon (well, I asked a guy who works there), but I’m still not sure whether they’ll have a physical phone or what. Most important, will it be a red phone?

Meanwhile, it could be some time before the line is set up, the Financial Times reports.

Olympic Threats, Bush's China Crutch, North Korea, and the Environment (U.S.–China Links)

Olympic threats: really dumb. China: Bush’s diplomatic savior? The North Korea deal: not what the White House hoped. And China meets the U.S. Congress to plan for a post-Bush climate reality. Recent China–U.S. relations news.

  • Steve Clemons agrees with me (OK, he agrees with James Fallows, whom I agree with) that “Boycotting the Olympics today or trying to preempt China’s hosting the games as Perle suggested in 2001 are hollow threats that perpetuate the mistaken notion that America is in a serious position to isolate China.” Clemons’ post today on China and his comments in the item below are worth attention.
  • In a New York Times Week In Review piece today Steven Lee Meyers argues that George W. Bush is using China’s influence in Iran, North Korea, and Burma as a “diplomatic crutch”—that having spent much of his country’s international political capital, Bush is lucky to have China to turn to. Myers quotes U.S Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill as saying “China has become the first stop for any American diplomacy.”
  • Not that the result in North Korea has been exactly what the Bush administration was hoping for, writes Richard Bernstein.
  • I’m a bit late posting this, but Der Speigel reported a “secret” meeting between members of the U.S. Congress and Chinese National Development Reform Commission (NDRC) Deputy Chief Xie Zhenhue. The White House was reportedly left out of this meeting addressing post-Bush administration environmental policy. According to Speigel:

    High-ranking sources close to the participants of the meeting between the Chinese delgation and Congress said the Chinese sought to find out how determined Congress is to push through rigorous climate protection laws in the future. During the discussion, members of Congress made clear that they would soon like to vote on legislation that would set binding emissions limits. However, the members of Congress said they didn’t provide the Chinese with a firm timeline for when this might happen.

McCain on N. Korea, Rearming Japan, and Taiwan (Oct. 2006)

In a Hannity & Colmes interview last year devoted mostly to attacking U.S. efforts to control North Korea under President Bill Clinton, Senator John McCain—now a leading Republican presidential candidate—said if the United Nations doesn’t do enough to control North Korea, Japan will have to “rearm.” And he said, puzzlingly, that something he refers to as “it” would be in China’s interest … referring to Taiwan! Here’s the quote, from October 11, 2006:

HANNITY: Senator, you know, just as we’re coming on the air here tonight, Japan is suspecting that North Korea, in fact, conducted a second nuclear test. And, as we think about this, what is the answer here? Is the answer that we worked through the United Nations or is a stronger answer that we rearm Japan, that we offer them some type of missile defense, and perhaps they even become nuclear-prepared?

MCCAIN: If the United Nations, because of China and Russia, do not invoke the strictest form of sanctions, that will affect our relations with both countries in a variety of ways. It is in China’s interest, not for any reason other than it’s not in China’s interest to see an escalation of tension on the Korean Peninsula.

Yes, the Japanese would have to rearm. The Japanese would have to acquire defensive weapons. What happens with Taiwan? The whole area could be in jeopardy of some kind of conflagration. That’s why it’s in China’s interest. [emphasis mine]

And, by the way, they control the food, and they control the oil that goes into North Korea. And they could exercise that if they want to.

So first the United Nations sanctions. But China has got to play a greater role. And they’ve been doing pretty well.

HANNITY: Rearming Japan, a resolution to defend Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, that would all be in the areas that you would suggest to the president at this particular point, remind the Chinese that, in fact, the Olympics are coming?

MCCAIN: Yes. And I would also make it clear to the Chinese that we’re not happy with some things, like the currency exchange. We’re not happy with their repression of democracy. We’re not happy with their failure to progress recently on a path to a free and open society.

And we will continue our steadfast belief that Taiwan will only be reunited to China if it’s done in a peaceful manner and the people of Taiwan desire to do so. Until then, we will protect them.

This second answer looks like an exercise in unloading predetermined China talking points. It strikes the usual ambiguous note on Taiwan.

But let’s take the bolded statement apart. He says Japan would have to “rearm” and “acquire defensive weapons,” when in fact Japan already has defensive weapons, and U.S. patriot missiles have been deployed in Okinawa since June 2006. Rearming could mean replacing current weapons with other, similar ones. More likely it means bringing Japan’s level of armament back to a higher, former level. Given McCain’s invocation of a possible regional “conflagration” that could involve Taiwan, we can only assume he means revising Article 9 of the Japanese constitution and giving Japan the right to engage in collective self defense.

It’s entirely unclear to me whether he means that rearming Japan would be in China’s interest or that a strong U.N. reaction to North Korea’s nuclear test is in its interest because anything less would lead to rearming Japan.

It would be nice to ask some follow-ups now that the North Korea situation has cooled off.

Abe States the Obvious: No Nuclear Japan

I don’t think many informed commentators really thought the calls of Nakasone and others would lead to a nuclear Japan any time soon, but it’s notable that Prime Minister Abe Shinzo pledged to Chinese President Hu Jintao at the APEC summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, that Japan would remain a non-nuclear state. Indeed, if a Japanese government decided to develop a nuclear capability, it would be soon in coming. But because the Japanese public still opposes a nuclear military—and, perhaps more significantly, Japan has no immediate need for a non-U.S. deterrent—Japan has little motivation to apply its nuclear savvy to weaponry.

According to Reuters: “Our country is the only one in the world to have suffered a nuclear attack,” Abe said. “We have to take the lead in persuading the world to give up nuclear weapons.”

Which implies the reduction of U.S. and Russian arsenals and a commitment to nonproliferation in general. We’ll see what this rhetoric amounts to.