Cooperation on regional and global issues

9 - Relations with China on Iran and proliferation

Grade: B+
Unity 5/5
Resources 4/5
Outcome 6/10
Total 15/20

Europe is united on proliferation. It had a major success with China’s approval of new UN sanctions against Iran in June.  It has less leverage over and therefore less impact on North Korea

The two major cases of proliferation are Iran and North Korea. In both cases, the EU seeks stronger Chinese cooperation both on dialogue with the two regimes and on sanctions, in particular at the UN.

On Iran, the EU and, in particular, the EU3 (France, Germany and the UK) has had a dual strategy of talking with Tehran and applying pressure by way of sanctions. The EU has repeatedly sought to persuade China to participate in these sanctions. In June, China voted in favour of a new round of (albeit watered down) sanctions at the UN – a major success for the EU and the US (see also components 23, 37 and 76). Although China remains Iran’s top trading partner and investor, it seemed this year to stop stepping in to pick up on investments after European companies have left. High Representative Catherine Ashton’s smooth cooperation with the EU3 on Iran suggests a new way of rewiring EU institutions and large member states.

Although China is even more isolated on North Korea than on Iran, the EU has less leverage and has had less impact. The EU does not participate in the Six-Party Talks and has influence only through the presence of France and the UK in the UN Security Council. Individual member states such as France and the UK have regularly spoken to Japan and South Korea, and several others including France and Spain have participated in high-sea surveillance of North Korean ships. When an international commission blamed North Korea for the sinking of a South Korean corvette in May, the EU condemned the action. China subsequently asked for restraint by all parties and bargained for a watered-down statement at the UN Security Council. When North Korea fired artillery shells at a South Korean island near the disputed sea-border area in November, the EU again condemned the action.