China says oil still goes to the North

Joong Ang Daily

China has not cut off oil supplies to North Korea, nor will it stop oil and food assistance to its ally as a means of exerting political pressure, Chinese officials were quoted as telling a group of U.S. scholars.

The Americans in the group also said Wednesday that Chinese officials seemed to have a different understanding from the North Koreans about how U.S. financial sanctions would be dealt with at the next round of six-nation talks.

The Chinese reportedly said they were “surprised” that Pyongyang had told the group it expected those sanctions to be lifted.

Siegfried Hecker, a visiting professor at Stanford University, said he asked Chinese foreign ministry officials if Beijing had cut off heavy fuel oil to North Korea as reported.

“The answer was that China did not cut off heavy fuel oil to North Korea. That’s the direct answer that we received,” he said at a news conference.

Mr. Hecker was part of a four-member delegation that was in Pyongyang Oct. 31-Nov. 4. He is a former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, a U.S. nuclear weapons center, and has visited North Korea three times.

The other members of the team were Jack Pritchard, former U.S. point man on North Korea policy and now head of the Korea Economic Institute in Washington, D.C.; Robert Carlin, a former North Korea analyst now at the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization; and John Lewis, a Stanford University professor.

There was speculation that Beijing had ended the fuel aid to the North in September, when Pyongyang showed signs of preparing for its first nuclear test. The aid suspension was believed to be China’s way of pressing its ally to forgo the test.

Mr. Hecker said Chinese officials were clear that Beijing did not and would not stop fuel and food donations, arguing that North Korea would only “grow stronger” if pressured.

The team arrived in North Korea on the day the communist regime, after a year’s boycott, agreed to return to the six-nation nuclear talks that also involve South Korea, the United States, China, Russia and Japan.

Pyongyang left the table to protest punitive measures taken by the U.S. Treasury against Macao’s Banco Delta Asia for allegedly laundering money for the North.

North Korean officials told the American visitors that they expected discussions and a conclusion of the sanctions issue at the next six-party talks, according to Mr. Pritchard.

But Chinese officials, when told of Pyongyang’s position, “expressed some surprise,” Mr. Hecker said.

“They indicated, obviously, differences of opinion as to what was agreed on,” he said.


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