Reuters: China is “conscientiously studying” a draft EU proposal to threaten Iran with sanctions for its nuclear activities, but favors defusing the dispute through negotiations, a spokesman said on Tuesday. By Chris Buckley
BEIJING (Reuters) – China is “conscientiously studying” a draft EU proposal to threaten Iran with sanctions for its nuclear activities, but favors defusing the dispute through negotiations, a spokesman said on Tuesday.
Britain, Germany and France — the EU3 — have circulated a draft proposal to authorize the International Atomic Energy Agency to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions.
The IAEA meets on February 2 to discuss Iran’s nuclear program, and China is a key player, because it could use its veto power as a permanent member of the Security Council to scuttle any sanctions.
A spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, Kong Quan, said his country has “noted the considerations” of the European countries.
“But on the other hand, we believe that further applying diplomatic efforts, and diplomatic means to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue, remains a relatively suitable and better option,” Kong told reporters at a regular briefing.
He called on the countries to “do their utmost to return to the negotiating track.”
Chinese officials also planned to discuss Iran with the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, who arrived in Beijing on Monday for a three-day visit to China. But Kong offered no details of those talks.
ENERGY SECURITY THREAT
In Tokyo on Monday, Zoellick told reporters that Iran’s nuclear program threatened China’s energy security.
“It poses a threat not only in terms of security terms, but in my view, given the reliance of Japan, China and others on energy from the region, it poses some danger to energy security over time,” he said.
About 12 percent of China’s oil imports in 2005 came from Iran, and the two countries have signed several oil and gas deals.
Zoellick said in Tokyo that there was a “pretty good posture” for referring the issue to the Security Council given the composition of the IAEA board.
“If you look at the countries that are members of the IAEA board, I think we are in a pretty good posture about pursuing a referral,” he said..
But a Chinese scholar familiar with policymakers said China was likely to quietly resist attempts to impose U.N. sanctions on Iran.
China believes that North Korea, which announced it was leaving the Non-Proliferation Treaty in early 2003 after mounting international pressure over its nuclear program, shows the dangers of sanctions brinkmanship, said the scholar, who asked not to be identified.
Six-party talks between China, the United States, North Korea, South Korea, Japan and Russia have so far failed to end North Korea’s nuclear program.
“China’s experience with North Korea teaches it not to push,” said the scholar. “And Iran is not North Korea. It has something crucial. North Korea is not even exporting shoes,” he said, referring to Iran’s oil exports.