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China, Russia and North Korea have begun reaffirming once-close ties
after a series of Western foreign policy decisions convinced them it is
in their interests to renew cooperative military and economic
relationships.

Last week, Gen. Fu Quanyou, China’s chief of general staff of the
People’s Liberation Army (PLA), resurrected the traditional phrase “as
close as lips and teeth” in describing relations between China and North
Korea. That phrase hasn’t been used by Chinese officials to describe
Beijing’s relationship with Pyongyang since the former opened diplomatic
ties to South Korea in 1992.

Fu made his comments at the North Korean Embassy in Beijing on the
49th anniversary of China’s participation in the Korean War.

Analysts at
Stratfor.com believe Fu’s comments were, in part, “an economic tactic
aimed at increasing foreign investment in China without loosening
economic controls.” However, China believes the Western powers — and in
particular the United States — are gaining too much influence in Asia,
and is actively promoting a foreign policy aimed at curbing or
eliminating that influence.

Fu’s comments, analysts believe, were aimed at rebuilding the
traditional friendship between the two countries. The move is especially
ominous amid new reports that North Korea
is advancing a build-up of short- and long-range missiles along its
heavily militarized border with South Korea.

“The most threatening ongoing force development is the massive
fielding of artillery and multiple rocket launcher systems in
underground facilities near the demilitarized zone,” said Gen. Thomas
Schwartz, the Clinton administration’s nominee to become the new head of
U.S. forces in South Korea. Schwartz’s comments were submitted last
week to a congressional committee in the form of written answers.

“Over the past year, Pyongyang has accelerated … a comprehensive
force enhancement program that has already resulted in the deployment of
over 10,000 artillery systems and more than 2,300 multiple rocket
launcher systems in the forward area,” he wrote. “These long-range
artillery systems give North Korea the ability to provide devastating,
indirect firepower in support of ground force operations, and to strike
targets south of Seoul.”

“Relations between China and North Korea have not returned to the
warmth of the 1950s, nor are they likely to do so,” said Stratfor.com
analysts. “However, restoring relations gives China an important tool
for dealing with the United States, Japan and South Korea.”

Russia is also committed to reexamining its relationship with
Pyongyang. On Friday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin
described North Korea as “stable enough,” and said Russia will inform
the United States of developments regarding the peace treaty between
Russia and North Korea when it “deems necessary.”

Russian and North Korean diplomats, however, did sign a new
“cooperation agreement” in Pyongyang, though no details outlining the
areas of cooperation were given. According to a report in the Korea
Times
newspaper,
the agreement “will replace an old friendship and cooperation treaty
signed almost 40 years ago.”

“This is an absolutely normal agreement that complies with
international law, and is not directed against third countries,” said
Karasin.

Both Russia and China have been engaged in the sale of advanced
military weapons systems to North Korea, as well as among themselves.

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  • China renewing ties with N. Korea

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