China has produced a list of equipment and chemical substances it
has banned for export to North Korea, fearing that the North would
use the items to speed development of a nuclear-armed missile.
During the George W. Bush era, North Korea and Iran were joined
together in the Axis of Evil, but with President Obama's phone call
to President Hassan Rouhani of Iran last week, that pairing --
already out of favor in some quarters in Washington -- was no longer
so tight. It is virtually impossible, analysts say, to imagine Mr.
Obama's reaching out anytime soon to the leader of North Korea, Kim
Jong-un, who has already tested a nuclear bomb and has threatened to
stage a nuclear attack against the United States.
North Korea became even more of an outlier last week. China, its
longtime patron, produced a list of equipment and chemical
substances it banned for export to North Korea, fearing that the
North would use the items to speed development of an
intercontinental ballistic missile carrying a nuclear warhead.
The publication of the 236-page list of banned items came as a
surprise to many who follow North Korea and China, given China's
longstanding reluctance to do anything that might destabilize the
North and grant the United States any more power on the Korean
Chinese and Western analysts called the export ban an important
development -- if it is fully carried out -- especially since the
list appeared to have been approved at the highest levels of the
Chinese government. Either the Politburo or its seven-member
Standing Committee, the apex of Chinese power, gave the green light,
The compilation of the items, down to their measurements in both
inches and millimeters, was probably months in the making, and
almost certainly involved the expertise of China's nuclear and
military bureaucracies, they said. The export ban would bolster
United Nations sanctions imposed this year that were meant to starve
the North's increasingly sophisticated nuclear programs. The North
gets many important materials from China, and American officials had
long said sanctions would not work without more Chinese cooperation.
The release of the list came after new signs of the North's
continued nuclear buildup. Recent satellite photography showed steam
emerging from a newly reconstructed nuclear reactor, suggesting that
the North might be making good on its promise to resume the
production of plutonium for nuclear weapons. Last week, two American
arms-control experts said that a wide-ranging analysis suggested
that the North had learned to produce crucial components for uranium
enrichment without obvious foreign help.
Roger Cavazos, a former U.S. Army intelligence officer who
specialized in China's military, said an initial reading of the long
list of banned items suggested that China was targeting important
aspects of North Korean nuclear programs, including the ceramics
needed to protect a warhead as it re-entered Earth's atmosphere atop
Despite the North's underground tests of crude nuclear devices,
experts say Pyongyang has not yet tested a vehicle that can
withstand the heat of re-entry, an important step in building a
deliverable nuclear bomb. Experts also say that North Korea has most
likely not yet mastered the difficult task of miniaturizing a
nuclear bomb to fit atop a missile.
Since China's new leader, Xi Jinping, came to power this year,
Beijing has been tougher toward North Korea on its nuclear program,
even as it has continued business investment there in a bid to help
stabilize the impoverished country.
China analysts say Beijing is increasingly frustrated at Mr.
Kim's unpredictable behavior since he ascended to the leadership of
his country after the death of his father two years ago, including
his decision to proceed with a nuclear test this year despite
China's disapproval. …