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China rejects request to cut off N. Korea oil
Updated: 2005-05-08 09:06

China rejected a U.S. envoy's proposal to cut off North Korea’s oil supply as a way to pressure N. Korea government to return to disarmament talks, The Washington Post reported on Saturday.

Chinese officials rebuffed the U.S. idea, claiming it would damage their pipeline, the newspaper said citing unnamed U.S. officials.

In a meeting in Beijing on April 26, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill raised the suggestion of a "technical" interruption of fuel. But Chinese official Yang Xiyu complained the Americans were focused on too narrow a range of tools for China to influence Pyongyang, according to The Washington Post.

Yang told Hill that a shutdown would seriously damage the pipeline running from its Liaoning province to North Korea because the fuel has a very high paraffin content. Paraffin wax can be a problem in the transportation of crude oil, clogging pipelines and requiring their replacement.

China provides much of North Korea's energy and food, and has boosted trade with its neighbor by 20 percent in 2004, the Post said.

The reported push for a Chinese fuel cutoff came amid signs that North Korea may be planning to test a nuclear weapon. That warning came as a U.S. defense official said U.S. spy satellite images had shown what may be preparations for an underground nuclear test, although the official said it might also be "an elaborate ruse".

In February, North Korea announced it was a nuclear power and said it would not return to six-nation talks on its nuclear programs, which have been stalled for 11 months, because of the Bush administration's "hostile policy."

U.S. officials have increasingly turned to China to help bring North Korea back to the negotiating table.

"China has done a very good job. But China alone is not enough," Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing told reporters on Friday while attending a meeting in Tokyo.

Signifying the divide between Washington and Pyongyang, Chinese officials also told Hill about an unofficial North Korean proposal for ending the impasse. The North Korean idea called for a secret bilateral meeting between the United States and North Korea, during which the United States would privately apologize for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's comment that North Korea was an "outpost of tyranny." After that secret session, North Korea would consider returning to six-nation negotiations, The Washington Post reported.

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