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China Helps Mediate North Korean Nuclear Talks

Paraphrased by:
Steve Waldrop
August 29, 2003

Tied to North Korea by shared communist heritage and shed blood, but pushed by 25 years of evolution toward capitalism and internationalism, the Chinese government finds itself in an unfamiliar position: mediator.

When representatives of China, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Russia and the United States begin talks in Beijing to defuse a nuclear dispute between Washington and Pyongyang, in the middle will sit China, political partner of one and economic ally of the other, entering a new phase in its once-rigid foreign policy.

"China's role in the six-nations talks is far beyond simply being a coordinator," said Zhao Gancheng, a professor at the Shanghai Institute of Foreign Studies.

"China has its own interests in this issue- regional stability and a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula," Zhao said in an interview. "The Chinese government's goals have not changed. But it has certainly made some adjustments in the way it wants to achieve those goals."

China's leadership has been dodging the dispute between the United States and North Korea, saying it was up to them to solve. But pressured by Washington and probably by Pyongyang as well, Beijing has come around and agreed to host the talks, which South Korea, Japan and Russia will also attend.

No one else could host the meeting, really. North Korea has too many problems with South Korea and Japan, and considers Beijing, something of a communist big brother. North Korea considers the friendliest terrain available in the region to be China.