Wednesday, March 21, 2007

China in charge

The FT ran an article on Wednesday dissecting the process of releasing the frozen $25 million to North Korea. I was especially struck by this line:
Several people familiar with the debate said Hank Paulson, Treasury secretary, agreed to overrule officials responsible for terrorism financing, who objected to the move, after Beijing warned that a failure to return the North Korean funds would hurt the Sino-US strategic economic dialogue.
(This line also caught Daniel Drezner's eye, as seen in this post; he wonders what is going on in the strategic dialogue that would give this linkage weight.)

In case anyone forgot, this agreement is in many ways China's baby -- so it shouldn't be surprising to see China effectively using linkages to pressure the US to change course. I wonder if China has been applying similar pressure to Japan on the abductions issue behind the scenes, particularly as Premier Wen prepares to visit Japan next month.

Meanwhile, the FT article shows that the administration's critics on North Korea policy are more or less powerless. The State Department -- and Christopher Hill -- are in the driver's seat as far as the six-party talks are concerned.

I have to wonder, though, how the Bush administration's turn on North Korea will affect the wide-open race for the 2008 Republican nomination. I have no doubt that the conservative movement agrees with the National Review's assessment of diplomacy with North Korea. Will someone break from the field and secure the support by running against President Bush's new approach to Pyongyang?

1 comment:

Ken said...

I hadn't really thought that North Korea would make much of a difference at all in the Republican nomination debate...even China seems like an issue no one wants to touch, and it seems as though the foreign policy focus will stay on Iraq, Iran and possibly other flareups in the middle east.

As far as Paulson goes, he's turning out to be quite the pragmatist and has been very successful in bringing some rationality to a range of foreign/fiscal/economic policy flash points...especially with his announcement that the yen is being traded in a fair market forcing the EU to take the 'bad-guy' position on the BOJ at the G8 meeting...

Anyway, how do you think North Korea will figure into the nomination process and which (if any) of the candidates has anything substantial to say on the issue?