Jeffrey LewisNorth Korea’s Nuclear Weapons

I was struggling for something interesting to say about North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Choe Su-hon/’s claim that S2R* had “already reprocessed 8,000 wasted fuel rods and transformed them into arms.”

[*Secretive Stalinist Regime. Apparently respectable news outlets think this term is descriptive. ]

Something that I have noticed is that the Chinese simply don/’t believe the North Koreans. Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing told reporters that “I have never ever heard about such news. The official news I/’ve got from the DPRK side seems not to be exactly the same as what you have heard about.”

This is recurring them in talking to Chinese that I had not, previously, seen made official policy. When I was in Beijing, Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the same thing. Chinese academics repeat the line, adding that China would not let North Korea go nuclear.

Possible explanations are myriad–the Chinese are in denial, their intelligence on the issue is solid, the diplomats are reading talking points. The fact, however, that Li Zhaoxing said it in a newspaper seems significant to me–perhaps a sign that the folks in China who pressed for a more active role have are becoming a little impatient.

An ill-formed thought, but ill-formed thoughts are the currency of China watching.

Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing on the chances that North Korea has “already reprocessed 8,000 wasted fuel rods and transformed them into arms.”