May 27, 2016


Introduction: Iran in China’s Strategic Calculus

There is a paucity of research on Sino-Iran relations in the international security literature, yet this relationship has important implications for East Asia and Middle East regional security. Historically, Sino-Iran relations span back thousands of years, and their modern partnership began in the 1970s, first with the Shah and then continuing with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Sino-Soviet split in the 1960s, coupled with the Shah’s fear of Soviet misadventures in Iran and the Gulf, paved way for Sino-Iran rapprochement. This was further reinforced by their shared sense of history as great ancient empires that were humiliated by the West.[1] From 1858 to 1860, Russia seized large swaths of Siberia from China, while throughout the 1800s, European powers carved up China and Iran.[2] Currently, on a pragmatic level, China is paving a new energy silk road with Iran to meet its energy security-driven foreign policy goals and to hedge against U.S. domination over their energy supply in the Persian Gulf. 

China’s Persian Gulf Strategy 

In 1993, China became a net importer of oil and is now the second biggest energy consumer in the world, after the United States. However, China’s peer competitor, the United States, with its formidable naval power, controls sea lanes of communications (SLOC) for oil supplies that may be cut off over a potential Taiwan clash. As such, in 2000 a Chinese article in the influential Strategy and Management Journal recommended that China’s strategy in the Persian Gulf should be to align with Iran.[3] In the article, the author posits that since the United States already controls the west bank of the oil-rich Persian Gulf via its pro-American proxies (e.g., Saudi Arabia and the smaller Gulf states), the Gulf is in effect an “internal sea” for the United States, and challenges to that position are likely to fail. However, if China and Russia expand relations with Iran, they could maintain a “minimum balance” to thwart U.S. moves. Since securing oil imports from the Gulf requires both the U.S.-controlled west bank and the China/Russia-supported Iranian east bank, this axis would block U.S. efforts to impose oil embargoes against other countries. Should the United States and China ever have a military clash over Taiwan, the United States would not shut off China’s Gulf oil supplies since China, Russia, and Iran control the Gulf’s east bank.[4] Indeed, in 2001, China followed this strategic vision and formed the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) with a Sino-Russia-Iran axis to counterbalance perceived U.S. hegemony.[5]

Iran-Iraq War

China’s Persian Gulf Strategy of aligning with Iran played out during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War. Similar to its current stance towards Iran, China maintained neutrality while voting against the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution for sanctions, stating that sanctions intensify conflicts. China also refused to move Resolution 552 (passed in 1984) that prevented attacks on neutral commerce in Persian Gulf to sanctions. Moreover, China supplied arms to Iran; in 1982, U.S. officials charged China and North Korea with supplying 40 percent of Iran’s arms, and by 1987 this figure had increased to 70 percent.[6] In 1986, Iran began attacking neutral Kuwaiti vessels. U.S. satellite imagery in 1987 indicated Iran was installing Chinese Silkworm anti-ship missiles along the Strait of Hormuz. The United States responded by reflagging Kuwaiti vessels, yet the United States and China almost went to war over Iran when in October 1987 a Silkworm struck a U.S. reflagged tanker. U.S. forces retaliated by striking and destroying an Iranian oil production platform in the Gulf, followed by another round of U.S.-Iran military conflict in April 1988, when a mine nearly sank a U.S. frigate. This was followed by subsequent attacks between Iran and the United States Navy. As tensions escalated, China became concerned about developing a negative perception that it was perpetuating the war by arms proliferation to Iran and by helping Iran to militarily challenge the United States.[7] Finally, the Sino-Iran fear of escalation into full war with the United States prompted Iran to accept Resolution 598 for ceasefire in July 1988. During this war, Iran perceived China to be a reliable partner, and thereafter China became a key interlocutor for Iran.

Nuclear Iran

China’s Persian Gulf strategy is continuing to be played out in the current stalemate over Iran’s illicit nuclear program. China is emerging as the key impediment to new UNSC sanctions, given its past history and its strategic interests in Iran. China signed a $40 billion deal in July 2009 to refine Iran’s oil,[8] and it surpassed the EU to become Iran’s number-one trading partner, with bilateral trade at $36.5 billion, in 2009 (compared with $35 billion for European states), mainly in the energy sector.[9] Some pundits expect that energy-hungry China would not support sanctions, whether to maintain their trade relations or for fear of Iranian retaliation by corking the Strait of Hormuz bottleneck; however, this appears to be a relatively minor concern to China. Although one-third of China’s oil imports flowing through the Hormuz seems to be a large figure, by disaggregating the data and looking at China’s overall energy mix, it can be seen that oil consists of only 20 percent of its total mix, while 70 percent of China’s economy is fuelled by its abundant domestic supply of coal (see Figure 1).[10] Thus, one-third of 20 percent yields just 6.6 percent of China’s total energy use coming through the Strait of Hormuz, a reason for Beijing’s reluctance to flag the Hormuz Strait as an issue.[11] Another reason is having Iran as a key node in the land-based energy silk road.

Figure 1: China’s Energy Mix

Lin-Figure 1


Source: EIA Country Analysis Brief, “China,” U.S. Department of Energy, updated July 2009.

China’s New Silk Road 

China needs Iran not only to keep open the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf but also as a node in the new energy silk road connecting the Persian Gulf, Caspian Sea, and Central Asia to China. In this Asian Energy Security Grid–or Pipelineistan[12]–China needs Iran in a series of pipelines, including the Iran-Pakistan (IP) pipeline and the interconnection between Iran and Turkmenistan, which will have an eventual direct land link between Iran and China in order to bypass the Strait of Malacca, which is patrolled by the United States Navy. In December 2009, Turkmenistan announced it would begin to supply natural gas through a new pipeline to China.[13] China’s current energy silk road appears to be modeled on the ancient silk road, with both maritime and overland routes.

Figure 2: Ancient Silk Road, Both Maritime and Overland Routes 

Lin-Figure 2

Source: “Silk Road” by Wikiality123 using En: Image: Silk Route Extant.JPG, 18 September 2007.

Maritime Route: String of Pearls

China is already establishing a maritime route, called the “String of Pearls.”[14] Broadly speaking, each “pearl” in the “string of pearls” is a nexus of Chinese geopolitical or military presence.[15]

Figure 3: Reproduced from IntelliBriefs, “‘China’s String of Pearls’ Strategy,” April 1, 2007.

Lin-Figure 3, MJ v14n1


Several things are needed in a string of pearls: access to airfields and ports, increase in diplomatic relations, and a modernizing military force to move effectively to maintain/hold individual pearls. These pearls extend from the coast of mainland China through the littorals of the South China Sea, the Strait of Malacca, across the Indian Ocean, and onto the littorals of the Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf. Some of the pearls include: upgraded military facilities on Hainan Island; an upgraded airstrip on Woody Island, located in the Paracel archipelago about 300 nautical miles east of Vietnam; a container shipping facility in Chittagong, Bangladesh; construction of a deepwater port in Sittwe, Burma; construction of a navy base in Gwadar, Pakistan; a pipeline through Islamabad and over the Karakoram highway to Kashgar in Xinjiang province that would transport fuel to China itself; intelligence gathering facilities on islands in the Bay of Bengal near the Strait of Malacca; and the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka.[16]

India fears China’s strategic encirclement in the Indian Ocean, as China garlands its “String of Pearls” around India, having established a listening post in Gwadar, Pakistan, equipped Bangladesh with Chinese military hardware in an anti-India defense cooperation, concluded a military agreement with Cambodia in November 2003, and established military ties with Burma and leased Coco Island in 1994 for SIGINT installation.[17] The latest pearl acquisition was on October 31, 2007, to construct the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka. 

Figure 4: [China’s Maritime Route] Reproduced from “China Garlands India with String of Pearls,”

Lin-Figure 4

China is also constructing an overland route of the Silk Road. 

Iran: A Node for Maritime and Overland Routes

Iran may also be a new pearl in China’s maritime pearl necklace. China is increasing its naval presence in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean, with a call in December 2009 by Chinese Rear Admiral Yin Zhou to set up a permanent naval base in the Gulf of Aden.[18] Chinese warships in the Gulf of Aden have been using a French naval base at Djibouti for resupply. While Rear Admiral Yin Zhou did not specify any country where a permanent Chinese naval base might be set up, some pundits have assessed it could be Iran. Given Sino-Persian close cooperation in energy security and a greater willingness to embrace China’s naval vessels making port calls to Iran, this may be a prelude to more extensive agreements to perhaps provide a small Chinese naval outpost on one of Iran’s Persian Gulf islands.[19] Iran may be inclined to offset U.S. pressure by playing the “China card” should the United States try to project military power by utilizing some of the UAE’s man-made islands. Indeed, in November 2009, NATO entered into the advanced stages of negotiating a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the face of Iran’s nuclear threat.[20]

According to Jane’s Intelligence Review, China is “pursuing a two-pronged strategy to secure its energy, using the navy to protect maritime supply and building new pipelines.”[21] In addition to China’s major deepwater port on the Arabian Sea at Gwadar in Pakistan, which could host China’s expanding submarine fleet and possible future aircraft carriers, China is also building oil and gas pipelines from the Central Asia to western China to reduce its dependence on vulnerable maritime routes. Since 1991, many in the West have discussed development of a modern silk road of highways, pipelines, and rail lines linking Central Asia with Europe, but few have paid much attention to China’s active program to build these corridors. In January 2010, an article in the Georgian Daily discussed China’s “Silk Road Strategy” of building gas pipelines and railways through its SCO Central Asian partners and connecting with rail networks in Iran and Turkey to Europe.[22] China, Iran, Turkey, and Europe all use the standard 1435 mm rail gauge, but the central Asian republics between China and Iran use the Soviet/Russian track width of 1520 mm. As such, China is already negotiating with Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to harmonize its Russian/Soviet track with the international standard and to allow China to move goods to Iran, Turkey, and the EU without changing equipment at the border.[23] It is also building a freight railroad from its Aynak copper mining project in Afghanistan to Gwadar, Pakistan, where it has a large naval base, enabling China to transport future goods from the Middle East and Africa via railway links through Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and into western China.[24] Thus, China appears to be steadily advancing in restoring its ancient maritime and overland routes of the silk road.

Given the strategic significance of Iran as China’s partner in the Middle East, including as a key node for its overland and maritime routes along its modern energy silk road; given that it is an SCO partner to hedge against U.S. global hegemony and NATO expansion into its backyard in Central Asia;[25] Given that a relatively small portion of its energy need (6.6 percent) comes from the Strait of Hormuz; given increasing trade links and the surpassing of the EU as Iran’s number-one trading partner in 2009 ($36.5 billion); and given the history of Chinese assistance to Iran’s nuclear program and recent nuclear proliferation of pressure transducers (for precise measurements in production of weapons-grade uranium) via a Taiwan front company,[26] it seems unlikely that China would jump on the bandwagon to allow a fourth round of UNSC sanctions. As a corollary, unless there is a full embargo or crippling sanctions from a “coalition of the willing,” this may likely force the hand of a military option of a precision strike by allied powers of “like-minded” states, perhaps similar to the 1999 NATO air strike in Kosovo when it was clear Russia would not approve UNSC resolutions.

DPRK and Iran’s Strategic Partnership 

Similar to China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Iran have also shared strategic cooperation for more than three decades. Yet scholars in the international security literature continue to treat them as separate variables, with the bifurcation of regional studies between Middle East and East Asian studies. This strategic cooperation has entailed the proxy development of missile and nuclear technologies to sidestep sanctions, collaborative efforts to share test data and weapons designs, and the implementation of a strategy of exploiting the Six Powers Talk (and Six Party Talks) in breaking international commitments to achieve a nuclear fait accompli.[27] An article appeared in 1997 in The Middle East Review of International Affairs, wherein the author warned that DPRK was perhaps the most important single leak in international anti-proliferation effort, playing a destabilizing role in the Middle East.[28] Since radical Middle East regimes face arms embargoes from Western sources of military technology, and China and Russia can only supply up to a point due to international pressures, DPRK fills in the gap as an isolated regime that is by and large impervious to international pressure.

As an isolated “hermit kingdom,” DPRK proliferates weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to the Middle East in order to generate income, implement DPRK ideology of Juche/self-sufficiency, modernize its military, and prepare for forced reunification with the Republic of Korea (ROK).[29] Oftentimes, Middle East clients such as Iran underwrite DPRK’s research and development for missile and nuclear weapons technology, which it then purchases to expand its arsenal.[30] The improved WMD technology is also passed back to DPRK’s own armed forces, so that this collaboration simultaneously threatens the Middle East and Asia. On April 5, 2009, DPRK launched a Taepodong 2 rocket to put a satellite in orbit–only two months after Iran’ launched its Safir-2 rocket.[31] Japan’s Sankei Shimbun newspaper claimed a 15-person delegation from Tehran had been in the country advising the North Koreans since the beginning of March.[32] Indeed, Iran-DPRK missile collaboration has been ongoing for sometime: Iranians attended the May 1993 DPRK No-dong missile testing; DPRK observed the Iranian testing of Shahab 3 in 1991 and 1998; and Iranians were present at the launch site of the July 2006 missile testing of Taepodong 2.[33] A high-level Iranian defector, Ali Reze Asghari, says Iran also financed DPRK participation in Syria’s nuclear weapons program.[34] Thus, this flurry of activities underscored the growing proliferation threats posed by DPRK assistance to Iran’s missile capabilities, which has also led to collaboration in the nuclear realm.[35] 

Missile Collaboration

DPRK and Iran established diplomatic ties in 1973, and missile collaboration reportedly began in 1985 through an agreement under which Iran helped underwrite DPRK production of 300 kilometer-range Scud-B missiles in return for receiving the new technology, as well as the option to purchase the completed Scud-Bs.[36] In 1987, Iran reportedly purchased 100 Scud-Bs for use in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War.[37] This relationship expanded in the 1990s, with Iran and DPRK cooperating on joint development of Iranian Shahab missile series, closely based on DPRK’s nuclear-capable Nodong missile. Korea’s Nodong, Taepodong-1, and Taepodong-2 missiles were the basis for development of Iran’s Shahab 3, Shahab 4, and Shahab 5/6, respectively (see Figure 5).[38] The two states are thought to be collaborating on the development of a nuclear-capable ICBM, the DPRK Taepodong-2 and Iranian Shahab-6, which has a 5,000-6,000 kilometer range (see Figure 6).[39] 

Figure 5: Iran-DPRK Missile Cooperation  

Lin-Figure 5

Source:”Special Report: Challenges of Iranian Missile Proliferation–Partnership with North Korea,” WMD Insights, October 2006. 

Figure 6: Taepodong and Shahab Missile Ranges 

Lin-Figure 6

Source: WMD Insights, October 2006. 

Proxy Testing to Circumvent Sanctions

Iran and DPRK have partnered closely on missile flight-testing, proxy testing of DPRK systems in Iran, and data exchanges. DPRK agreed to a moratorium in September 1999 on long-range missile tests, increasing the need for proxy testing of such systems.[40] It accepted this restraint to sidestep U.S. sanctions following its August 1998 test of the long-range Taepodong-1 missile, which flew over northern Japan.[41] In May 2004, an unnamed senior U.S. official indicated Iran was probably giving DPRK telemetry and other data from missile tests to improve DPRK’s own missile systems.[42] In return, DPRK allegedly provided Tehran with onsite engineering consultation for future Iranian missile tests.

Proxy testing in Iran of jointly developed missiles allowed DPRK to avoid sanctions after the September 1999 missile test moratorium while continuing its missile advances. Up to DPRK’s September 1999 moratorium on long-range missile testing, press accounts stated that Iran regularly sent technical teams with missile telemetry and monitoring equipment to DPRK missile launches.[43] Thus, it is no surprise that Iranians were present to observe seven DPRK missile tests on July 5, 2006, which broke the September 1999 moratorium. A Japanese paper indicated that 10 Iranians were invited to the tests, and an anonymous South Korean military expert stated he heard “Iranians were stationed at two launch sites along North Korea’s east coast and on a boat in Sea of Japan.“[44]

Nuclear Collaboration 

In the field of nuclear collaboration, numerous public reports have appeared since 1993 describing elements of DPRK-Iranian collaboration in the development of nuclear capabilities. Cooperation reportedly began at the same time DPRK negotiated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) for cooperation in developing and manufacturing Nodong missiles in Iran. A 1993 Economist Foreign Report cited CIA sources that Iran was helping to finance the DPRK nuclear program in exchange for nuclear technology and equipment, with the goal of developing enriched uranium in the bilateral agreement.[45] Information disclosed in 2008 revealed that DPRK had negotiated with Pakistan for then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to supply DPRK officials data on developing highly enriched uranium during her 1993 DPRK visit.[46] The 1993-94 timeframe of the initial DPRK-Iran nuclear cooperation and interest in uranium enrichment coincides with and circumvents the 1994 DPRK-U.S. Agreed Framework to halt DPRK’s plutonium activities at Yongbyon: DPRK was signing a uranium enrichment agreement with Iran around the same time as signing the Agreed Framework with the U.S. to halt plutonium production.

The next stage of cooperation, from 2003 onwards, appears to have been influenced by the joint advancement of the Nodong (Shahab) program in Iran. Increased visits to Iran by DPRK nuclear specialists in 2003 reportedly led to a DPRK-Iranian agreement for DPRK to either initiate or accelerate work with Iranians to develop nuclear warheads that could be fitted on the DPRK Nodong missiles that DPRK and Iran were jointly developing.[47] So despite the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate stating that Iran in 2003 had halted weaponization of its nuclear program, this was the time that Iran outsourced to DPRK for proxy development of nuclear warheads and offered oil and gas shipments as payment.[48]

A February 2008 report of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) also claimed DPRK-Iranian collaboration in nuclear warheads development at secret sites in Iran.[49] It alleges that the Iranian Defense Ministry has a secret facility at Khojir on the edge of Tehran, code named B1-Nori-8500, which is engaged in development of nuclear warheads for intermediate-range ballistic missiles and that DPRK specialists are at this facility. European and Israeli defense officials stated in early 2007 that DPRK and Iran had concluded new agreement for DPRK to share data from its October 2006 nuclear test with Iran.[50] The extensive history of DPRK-Iran cooperation on nuclear capable missiles and collaboration on re-entry vehicles were moving towards the realm of nuclear collaboration.[51] A January 2007 article in The Daily Telegraph stated that DPRK was helping Iran prepare an underground nuclear test similar to the one Pyongyang carried out in 2006. A senior European defense official informed The Daily Telegraph that DPRK had invited a team of Iranian nuclear scientists to study the results of the October 2006 underground test to assist Teheran’s own test.[52]

DPRK-Iran nuclear collaboration also includes joint assistance for Syria’s nuclear program, as highlighted by the 2007 Israeli airstrike of the DPRK-assisted Syrian nuclear reactor.[53] Der Spiegel cited “intelligence reports seen by Der Spiegel” that DPRK and Iranian scientists were working together at the Syrian reactor site at the time of bombing. Some of the plutonium production slated for the reactor was to have gone to Iran, which viewed the reactor as a “reserve site” to produce weapons-grade plutonium to supplement Iran’s own highly enriched uranium program.[54] 

Tunneling Technology 

Tunneling for Hizballah

DPRK-Iran joint assistance of tunnel-digging for Hizballah terror campaigns against Israel has also been documented.[55] DPRK tunneling technology was first discovered in 1974 in South Korea. Under the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea, allied reconnaissance troops discovered a 45-meter deep tunnel at 3,500 meters long, replete with electricity, railways, and track vehicles.[56] Since then, several more tunnels have been discovered; one discovered in 1978 was 73 meters deep and 16.35 meters long. About 30,000 ranked, heavily armed troops can pass per hour.

In southern Lebanon, following the 2006 war, the Israeli Defense Forces and the UN discovered several sophisticated underground complexes abandoned by Hizballah militants that offered electricity, ventilation, and running water. The tunnels were strikingly similar to the ones that had been unearthed by the South Koreans.[57] French, Israeli, and South Korean sources have reported extensive programs by DPRK to arm/train Hizballah since the late 1980s and 1990s.[58]

The three top Hizballah officials who received training in DPRK are Hasan Nasrallah, Hizballah’s secretary general and the head of the Hizballah military organization; Ibrahim Akil, head of Hizballah’s security and intelligence service; and Mustapha Badreddine, Hizballah’s counter-espionage chief.[59]

According to the April 2007 Paris-based Intelligence Online, the DPRK program reportedly expanded when Israeli forces withdrew from southern Lebanon and Hizballah forces occupied the area. DPRK dispatched trainers to southern Lebanon, where they instructed a Hizballah cadre in the development of an extensive underground military installation.[60] Moreover, Takashi Arimoto, the Washington correspondent for the Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun, reported “a document of an international organ” that stated that in 2004 Syrian President Bashar al-Asad met with DPRK officials in Damascus and requested assistance in helping Hizballah to design and construct underground military installations.[61] 

Tunneling for Iranian Nuclear Sites

DPRK tunneling technology has also been used to hide Iran’s nuclear sites such as the one uncovered by Qom in 2009.[62] A January 2006 article in Jane’s Defence Weekly revealed that IRGC was undertaking procurement contracts with DPRK to bolster fortifications for nuclear facilities in anticipation of possible preemptive strikes. A group led by Lyu-Do Myong, affiliated with the DPRK government, was involved in the project for tunneling and designing underground construction around the Isfahan and Natanz sites.[63]

China’s Underground Great Wall

Incidentally, DPRK is not the only one with tunneling technology. In early December 2009, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) publication, China Defense Daily (Zhongguo Guofang Bao), published a report about underground tunnels built by its Second Artillery Corps (SAC)–PLA’s strategic missile forces–in the mountainous region of Hebei Province in northern China.[64] This network of tunnels stretches for more than 3,107 miles and was dubbed by the Chinese media as “Underground Great Wall” (Dixia Changcheng). It was built for concealing, mobilizing, and deploying China’s growing arsenal of nuclear weapons, and experts in various reports say this is to give the strategic forces, “2nd Arty,” a credible second strike capability. Given the extent of China’s strategic alliance with Iran, this may involve China’s sophisticated nuclear tunneling technology to protect Iran’s clandestine nuclear sites, although currently there is no open source information to establish that link.

the TriangLE of THE China, Iran, and DPRK Strategic Alliance

China-DPRK WMD Proliferation to Iran

China and DPRK have been sanctioned for decades for WMD proliferation (e.g., chemical precursor agents, missile and nuclear-related technologies) to Iran. For China, from 1991 to 2009, 17 out of 26 (65 percent) cases of U.S. sanctions for WMD proliferation were related to violations of the Iran Non-Proliferation Act, while others were to unspecified countries that may also be related to Iran.[65] Moreover, China has refused to join the 2003 Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and actually allows Iran and DPRK use of its ports and airspace.[66] The Times (Asia edition) in 2003 reported that from April to July 2003, China gave over-flight rights to Iranian II-76 cargo planes that flew to DPRK at least six times to pick up wooden crates suspected of containing cruise missiles. At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on September 11, 2003, Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly confirmed that the State Department formally protested to China on DPRK planes flying through China airspace or making refueling stops in China.[67] In December 2009, a Washington Times article stated that China was complicit in allowing DPRK use of airspace in proliferating the arms cache that was seized by Thai authorities.[68] In January 2010, it was revealed that China was proliferating nuclear parts via a Taiwan company to assist Iran’s uranium enrichment program.[69]

Thus, it seems China has its own agenda towards Iran and the Middle East and is unwilling to take steps to hurt its strategic interests. Iran serves as an important buffer in the east bank of the Persian Gulf against U.S. client states in the west bank, and it is an important Middle East regional pole in China’s goal of multipolarity to counterbalance U.S. global hegemony.

Just as Iran serves as a buffer between China and U.S. interests in the east bank of the Persian Gulf in the Middle East, DPRK serves as a buffer between China and U.S. troops in the Korean Peninsula in East Asia.

DPRK in China’s Strategic Calculus 

Despite conventional wisdom and Chinese declarations that it is a non-aligned country, China has a defense treaty with DPRK. Article 2 of the 1961 Sino-North Korean Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance Treaty is a mutual defense clause.[70] 

DPRK as Buffer Zone and Guard Post in Taiwan Contingency 

A 2006 article by Shen Dingli, executive director of both the International Studies Institute and the Center for American Studies at Fudan University, laid out the strategic significance of DPRK in China’s policy towards the United States. China’s main goals are economic development and national reunification. To the latter end, he argued that DPRK is a key buffer zone between China and U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, and it is also tied to China’s Taiwan contingency.[71] With a shared border of 1,400 kilometers, DPRK acts as a guard post for China against U.S. troops in South Korea, thereby allowing China to redeploy military assets away from northeast Asia towards Taiwan.

He further argues that a nuclear DPRK is an asset to China’s security because a nuclear DPRK could pin down U.S. forces in a Taiwan contingency and deter U.S. consideration of possible military intervention.[72] In this case, a nuclear DPRK makes war on the peninsula less likely, since the United States would be wary of risking its troops in South Korea and Japan. He conceded that DPRK used the six-party talks to buy time to develop nuclear weapons. Chances are slim for denuclearization because DPRK’s end goal is to possess nuclear weapons due to its perceived threat by the United States.[73] Indeed, China’s actions have supported this line of thought, as it has persistently watered down UNSC sanctions against DPRK and supported DPRK economically so that sanctions were not very effective. China recently announced it would invest $10 billion in DPRK, which is about 70 percent of DPRK’s total GDP of some $15 billion.[74] Given China’s de facto support of a nuclear DPRK and de jure economic support to prop up the regime, it seems unlikely DPRK would take the path of denuclearization similar to the one taken by Libya. Indeed, DPRK does not see itself as a Libya in eventual denuclearization but rather conveyed to U.S. officials that it aspired to be the “Israel of East Asia.”[75] 

Conclusion: Implications for Middle East and East Asia Regional Stability 

As the international community is mulling over the next step to take in the face of Iran’s continued nuclear brinkmanship, Iran is already taking steps to prepare for an eventual military strike by seeking closer ties with and eventual membership in the Russian-led collective security alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). CSTO has a mutual defense clause similar to NATO’s. 

Iran to Join CSTO-SCO Alliance Bloc 

In May 2007, the CSTO secretary general, Nicolai Bordyuzha, suggested that Iran could join CSTO and reiterated this desire again in April 2009. This was followed by a July 2009 Russo-Iran joint military exercise in the Caspian region called “Regional Collaboration for a Secure and Clean Caspian.”[76] CSTO members include Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. All members of the Sino-Russian-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), excluding China, are also CSTO members (that is, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan). Iran currently has observer status in the SCO and is a candidate to join CSTO. In October 2007, CSTO signed a defense cooperation agreement with SCO. If Iran joins CSTO, it will become a member of a collective security organization that has defense cooperation with China (SCO), which would complicate any U.S./Israeli military action against Iran’s nuclear sites (see Figure 7). 

Figure 7: Iran as Candidate to Join CSTO Alliance 

Lin-Figure 7

Source: Emil Faro, Image made using “File: Russian Federation (Orthographic Projection).SVG,” February 9, 2009.

Indeed, Iran appears to be seeking CSTO-SCO protection against NATO-GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) cooperation in the event of a conflict in the Middle East. In August 2009, the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) published a study entitled “GCC-Iran: Operational Analysis of Air, SAM and TBM Forces” on the military balance and operational fighting capabilities of GCC states and Iran.[77] NATO is already stepping up military ties with Gulf states through the 2004 Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) and offering a defense umbrella in the face of Iran’s nuclear threat. In January 2010, the U.S. deployed a missile shield to the Gulf region–Patriot defensive missiles and cruisers equipped with advanced anti-missile systems.[78] As for Iran’s missile defense, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently visited Moscow to delay delivery of the S-300 air defense system in order to buy time for crippling sanctions to work and not force the Israeli military hand. However, some experts raise concerns that Russia could still deliver S-300 and other missiles via circuitous routes. 

Iran-Russia Double Game in Missile Defense 

Hans Ruele, the former head of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the head of planning in the German Ministry of Defense in the 1980s, argued in a November 2009 article that immediately after President Obama cancelled missile defense in Eastern Europe due to assessed short-range (less than 2,000 kilometer) missile capability of Iran, retired Russian major general Dworkin declared Iran would soon have missiles with a 5,500 kilometer range. Russia has sold Iran some SS-20 2-stage solid fuel missiles (minus nuclear warheads) with a 5,500 kilometer range to hold Western Europe in its crosshairs.[79] SS-20 missiles should have been dismantled following the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, but Russia justified their re-use as aid for Iran’s space program.[80] Moreover, in September 2009, Venezuela signed an arms deal with Russia for delivery of S-300, Buk-M2, Pechora anti-aircraft missile systems, and others.[81] The S-300 is expected to deliver in 2010-11, so there is a risk that Venezuela would serve as a transit country for the transfer of the S-300 to Iran. 

Nuclear Zero and Non-Proliferation

While Iran and DPRK are pursuing the nuclear path and China is upgrading its “2nd Arty’s” nuclear capability, President Obama is calling for global “nuclear zero” and disarmament. As such, U.S. allies have increasing doubts regarding the credibility of a U.S. and NATO nuclear umbrella and are at a nuclear tipping point of proliferation. Without a robust U.S. and NATO nuclear arsenal, it is difficult to convince allies not to pursue their own nuclear option and to depend on an eroding U.S./NATO nuclear arsenal.

This is even more pressing given Germany’s recent announcement to withdraw all U.S. nuclear weapons from Germany and senior officials in the Obama administration advocating elimination of nuclear weapons stationed in NATO countries.[82] At the same time, Russia, in August 2009, resumed its “Zapad” (West) exercises that it used to simulate attack on NATO during the Cold War and is strengthening CSTO and defense cooperation with the SCO. The Zapad military exercises in Kaliningrad involved 13,000 Russian and Belarusian troops that featured a notional nuclear attack on Poland.[83] In a worst-case scenario, should Iran join CSTO, as it already has a defense treaty with Russia (the 1921 Russo-Persian Treaty of Friendship), a military strike on its nuclear facilities or Iranian missile strikes against Israel/Gulf states may draw CSTO in on Iran’s side and NATO in on GCC’s side in a Middle East regional conflict.

Moreover, Iran’s enabling of DPRK’s nuclear program threatens East Asia. In East Asia, Japan is most likely to pursue its nuclear option given the recent rift in U.S.-Japan alliance relations and the ruling DPJ’s animosity towards DPRK and China. Many senior-ranking officials are critical of a U.S. security guarantee and warn of depending on a U.S. nuclear umbrella with a hole over Japan.[84] Should Japan go nuclear, there will be a regional nuclear arms race because many countries feel threatened by the remilitarization of Japan due to its historical occupation and atrocities during World War II.

At a time when rogue regimes are seeking nuclear weapons, it is important to reassure U.S. and NATO allies on the robustness of its defense umbrella in preventing a cascade of regional nuclear proliferation. Iran seems intent on pursuing nuclear weapons and has taken steps to ally itself with a collective security organization to deter the U.S./Israeli military option. China and DPRK’s enabling of Iran’s nuclear program coupled with Russia’s pulling Iran into CSTO merits serious evaluation. During this critical time, allies are watching U.S. actions, especially the START negotiations with Russia.

The situation in 2010 seems reminiscent of the 1970s, when President Jimmy Carter aggressively pursued nuclear disarmament in the SALT II treaty with Brezhnev. Ronald Reagan, for one, believed in the futility of nuclear disarmament when he became a member of the Committee on Present Danger (CPD) in 1976, whose subsequent members included Paul Nitze, Eugene Rostow, William Casey, Richard Allen, Richard Perle, Donald Rumsfeld, George Shultz, Jean Kirtkpatrick, and others.[85] They cautioned détente and testified that SALT II would leave the United States open for Soviet conquest and were vindicated when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in the midst of signing the SALT II treaty–similar to Russia invading Georgia in 2008 in the midst of START negotiations. Indeed, Reagan believed that a freeze campaign opened the United States to “nuclear blackmail.”[86] He famously quipped to Gorbachev after signing the 1987 INF Treaty, “Trust, but verify.” Russia’s duplicitous maneuvers of breaking the INF treaty and selling SS-20 to Iran when they should have been dismantled, and China/DPRK’s continued nuclear-technology proliferation to Iran, are testament to trusting but not verifying. Hopefully, the current START negotiations will learn from history to exercise caution to preserve a robust “protect and defend” posture for the United States and its allies during these times.

To conclude, the best-case scenario now, given the failure of the previous three rounds of UNSC sanctions to halt advancement of Iran’s nuclear program, is for China to abstain from vetoing the proposed crippling sanctions on Iran’s energy sector. Russia is currently equivocating but may be onboard, along with Brazil, Turkey, Lebanon, and others, if China is amenable to the abstention option. The failure of crippling sanctions now would force the hand of a military strike against Iran, at the risk of drawing in the GCC, NATO, and CSTO to a wider regional conflict. This would be anathema to China’s long-term goal of regional stability for its economic development and new energy silk road across Eurasia.

If China can be persuaded to go along with crippling sanctions through abstention in the UNSC, this may have some impact on Iran’s IRGC leadership. More than 80 percent of Iran’s export earnings come from the energy sector, and 45-50 percent of government revenue (now increasingly consisting of IRGC) depends on it. Since China is the top trading partner and investor in Iran’s energy sector, if China abides with the UNSC sanction, this may cripple the IRGC leadership. China acts as the teeth that could make sanctions “crippling.” It is a key player, just like it is a key player with DRRK–supporting some 70 percent of DPRK’s entire GDP so that the UNSC economic sanctions have been largely ineffective.

Should sanctions fail and Iran become nuclear the implications would be disastrous. Not only is there a possibility of conflict between Gulf States (GCC) and Israel vis-à-vis Iran pulling in NATO and CSTO in an escalation of a wider regional conflict, a nuclear-armed Iran would provide a nuclear umbrella for terrorists; it would spur a global nuclear arms race and the end of the non-proliferation regime; Israel could face an existential nuclear attack; and U.S. global power and freedom of action would be greatly limited. Time is running out. Now is the time for the international community–including China as a responsible stakeholder–to show a united front to confront this great challenge. 

*Dr. Christina Y. Lin is a researcher with Jane’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Intelligence Centre (JCBRN) at IHS Jane’s and former director for China affairs in policy planning at the U.S. Department of Defense.


[1] John W. Garver, China & Iran: Ancient Partners in a Post-Imperial World (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 2006), pp. 4, 38-39.

[2] Ibid, p. 7.

[3] Tang Shiping, “Lixiang anquan huanjing yu xin shiji zhonguo da zhuanlue [“Ideal Security Environment and China’s Grand Strategy in the New Century”], Zhanlue yu Guanli [Strategy and Management], No. 6 (2000), pp. 45-46; Yueh-Chyn Lin, International Relations in the Gulf Region after the Cold War (Beijing: Social Sciences Academic Press, 2002). Foreign Minister Ji Pengfei, in a 1973 visit to Iran, first laid out Beijing’s preferential arrangement in the Persian Gulf that the Gulf should be handled by littoral countries, not by extra-regional powers (the United States), thereby endorsing Iran’s drive for regional primacy. Jon Alterman and John Garver, The Vital Triangle: China, The United States, and the Middle East (Washington, DC: The CSIS Press, 2008), p. 37.

[4] This scenario would provide “insurance against a remote contingency.” Shiping, “Lixiag.” This Gulf strategy also fits into China’s overall “String of Pearls” naval strategy, procuring Chinese naval ports from the Persian Gulf through the Indian Ocean and the Strait of Malacca to secure China’s energy supply in the event of conflict with the United States over Taiwan. Sudha Ramachandran, “China’s Pearl in Pakistan’s Waters,” Asia Times Online, May 4, 2005; Christina Y. Lin, “China’s Persian Gulf Strategy: Israel and a Nuclearizing Iran 2009,” China Brief, Vol. 9, No. 21 (October 22, 2009); Christina Y. Lin, “Militarisation of China’s Energy Security Policy: Defence Cooperation and WMD Proliferation Along its String of Pearls in the Indian Ocean,” Denkwurdigkeiten, Journal der Politisch-Militarischen Gesellschaft, No. 45 (July 2008).

[5] The SCO consists of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan as members and Iran, Pakistan, India, and Mongolia as observers. Over the years, China, Russia, and Iran have been closely aligned in energy security issues within the SCO. M K Bhadrakumar, “Russia, China, Iran Redraw Energy Map,” Asia Times Online, January 8, 2010.

[6] Facts on File, 1987, p. 420.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Vivienne Walt, “How Iran might Beat Future Sanctions: The China Card,” Times, July 16, 2009.

[9] “China Passes EU in Trade with Iran,” United Press International, February 9, 2010.

[10] Energy Information Agency, “China Country Profile,” updated July 2009.

[11] Yitzhak Shichor, “Iran Keeps China in a Chokehold,” Asia Times Online, September 26, 2008.

[12] Pepe Escobar, “Iran, China and the New Silk Road,” Asia Times Online, July 26, 2009.

[13] Vladimir Socor, “Strategic Implications of the Central Asia-China Gas Pipeline,” Eurasia Daily Monitor, Vol. 6, No. 233 (December 18, 2009).

[14] Christopher J. Pehrson, String of Pearls: Meeting the Challenge of China’s Rising Power Across the Asian Littoral (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, July 2006).

[15] The phrase “string of pearls” was first used to describe China’s emerging maritime strategy in a report titled “Energy Futures in Asia” by defense contractor Booz-Allen Hamilton, which was commissioned in 2005 by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of Net Assessment. Pehrson, String of Pearls.

[16] “US is Threatened by ‘Aggressive Chinese Sea Power,’” Al-Jazeera, September 14, 2005; Pehrson, String of Pearls, p. 3; Jennifer Chou, “China’s ‘String of Pearls,’” The Weekly Standard, November 5, 2007.

[17] Coco Island and the northern tip of the Andamans are separated by 18 kilometers of sea only. This is efficient for monitoring Indian naval and missile launch facilities in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, tracking movements of the Indian navy and other navies in the eastern Indian Ocean. In 1992, Great Coco Island station began with the emplacement of a 45-50-meter antenna tower, radar sites, and other electronic facilities, forming a comprehensive SIGINT (signals intelligence) collection facility.

[18] “China’s Navy Mulls Push into Arabian Sea,” UPI, December 30, 2009.

[19] Kaveh L. Afrasiabi, “A China Base in Iran?,” Asia Times Online, January 29, 2008.

[20] Mina Al-Oraibi, “An Emirati Vision for NATO’s Gulf Strategy,” RUSI Analysis, November 30, 2009.

[21]Andrew S. Erickson, “Pipe Dream–China Seeks Land and Sea Energy Security,” Jane’s Intelligence Review, China Watch, Vol. 21, No. 8 (August 2009), pp. 54-55.

[22] Paul Goble, “China Pursuing a ‘Silk Road Strategy’ from the East,” Georgian Daily, January 27, 2010; “Turkey, China Set to Revive Silk Road,” Hurriyet Daily News, January 8, 2010.

[23] Goble, “China Pursuing a ‘Silk Road Strategy;’” Erica Marat, “China Seeks to Link Central Asia by Railroad,” Eurasia Daily Monitor, Vol. 7, No. 30 (February 14, 2010).

[24] Kevin Larkin, “China in Afghanistan–Will the Dragon Go over the Mountain?,” Political and Security Risk in China, Vol. 2, No. 6 (November 24, 2009).

[25] China is furious with the United States over its recent arms package sale to Taiwan and meeting with the Dalai Lama. It persistently calls for multipolarity in the global system and supports Iran as a Middle East regional hegemon to challenge the United States as well as to strengthen SCO to counterbalance what it perceives as U.S.-dominated NATO expansion into its backyard.

[26] A Taiwanese company, Hsinchu-based Heli-Ocean Technology Co. Ltd, was tapped by China to export 108 pressure transducers, which convert pressure into analog electrical signals. A dual-use technology, transducers furnish the precise measurements needed in the production of weapons-grade uranium. David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security said this equipment was likely for Iran’s gas centrifuge program. Debby Wu, “Taiwan Firm: China Got Iran Part with Nuke Uses,” Guardian, January 8, 2010; “China’s Nuclear Exports and Assistance to Iran,” Nuclear Threat Initiative.

[27] Christina Y. Lin, “The King from the East: DPRK-Syria-Iran Nuclear Nexus and Strategic Implications for Israel and the ROK,” Academic Paper Series on Korea, Vol. 3, No. 7 (Washington, DC: Korea Economic Institute, October 2008); Erich Follath and Holger Stark, “How Israel Destroyed Syria’s Al Kibar Nuclear Reactor,” Spiegel Online, November 2, 2009.

[28] Barry Rubin, “North Korea’s Threat to the Middle East and the Middle East’s Threat to Asia,” Middle East Review of International Affairs, (1997),

[29] Kongdan Oh Hassig and Caroline Ziemke, “Far East and Middle East: An Investigation of Strategic Linkage,” Institute for Defense Analyses, IDA Document D 2773, September 2002, p. 23; Rubin, “North Korea’s Threat to the Middle East and the Middle East’s Threat to Asia,” p. 3.

[30] Rubin, “North Korea’s Threat to the Middle East and the Middle East’s Threat to Asia,” p. 2.

[31] Patrick Goodenough, “Missile Collaboration Between North Korea and Iran Goes Back Year,”, March 31, 2009.

[32] “Reports: Iran Experts Aiding North Korea Rocket Launch,” Sunday Times, March 29, 2009.

[33] Stephanie Griffith, “Iran Present at North Korea Missile Launch Says US,” Agence France Press, July 20, 2006.

[34] Ryan Mauro, “Iranian Experts in North Korea for Missile Launch,”, March 2009.

[35] Jennifer Kline, “Special Report: Challenges of Iranian Missile Proliferation,” WMD Insights, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, No. 9 (October 2006).

[36]NTI,“Country Overviews: North Korea, Missiles,”

[37] Ibid.

[38] The Shahab 5 Shahab 6 are thought to be in development and have not been tested. Kline, “Special Report,” p. 2.

[39] Michael Richardson, “Missile Deals Muscle Up North Korea,” New Zealand Herald, July 21, 2006.

[40] “The New World After Iraq: The Continuing Threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction,” John R. Bolton, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, Remarks to The Bruges Group, London, United Kingdom, October 30, 2003.

[41] Gary Samore, “US-DPRK Missile Negotiations,” The Nonproliferation Review, Vol. 9, No. 2 (Summer 2002).

[42] “North Korea May Be Betting Missile Test Data from Iran: US Official,” Kyodo News Service, May 27, 2004.

[43] Barbara Demick, “N Korea-Iran Ties Seem to Be Growing Stronger,” Los Angeles Times, July 27, 2006.

[44] Ibid; “Iran Present at North Korea Missile Launch: US,” Korea Herald, July 22, 2006; Deborah Tate, “US Official Says Iranians Witnessed North Korean Missile Tests,” Voice of America, July 20, 2006.

[45] “An Israeli Lesson for North Korea?,” Economist Foreign Report, April 22, 1993, p. 2. See also: “DPRK Reportedly Aids Iranian Nuclear Project,” Yonhap News Agency, January 26, 1993. DPRK military delegation’s Iran visit reported, Seoul KBS-1 Radio Network, February 24, 1994.

[46] Glenn Kessler, “Bhutto Dealt Nuclear Secrets to N. Korea, Book Says,” Washington Post, June 1, 2008.

[47] Douglas Frantz, “Iran Closes in on Ability to Build a Nuclear Bomb; Tehran’s Reactor Program Masks Strides Toward Weapons Capability, a Times Investigation Finds,” Los Angeles Times, August 4, 2003; “Military Source: DPRK, Iran Planning Joint Development of Nuclear Warheads,” Sankei Shimbun, August 6, 2003; “Iranian Nuke Experts Visited N Korea This Year,” Kyodo World Service, June 10, 2003; Frantz, “Iran Closes in on Ability to Build a Nuclear Bomb.”

[48] The NIE in 2007 highlighted that Iran appeared to have suspended the third element of a nuclear program–weaponization–in 2003 due to international pressure and scrutiny. The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, “Strengthening the Partnership: How to Deepen US-Israel Cooperation on the Iranian Nuclear Challenge,” June 2008.

[49] “Iran Still Developing Nuclear Warheads: Exiled Opposition Group,” Agence France Press, February 20, 2008. Marc Champion, “Iran Arms Claim is Lodged–Tehran is Developing Nuclear Warheads, Exile Group Tells U.N.,” Wall Street Journal Asia, February 21, 2008.

[50] Jin Dae-woong, “Concerns Grow over Missile Links Between N Korea, Iran,” Korea Herald, January 28, 2007; “North Korea Aids Iran in Nuclear Testing,” Dow Jones International News, January 24, 2007; “Israel PM to Charge N Korea Link with Iran, Syria,” Agence France Press, February 26, 2008.

[51] Con Coughlin, “North Korea Helping Iran with Nuclear Testing,” Daily Telegraph, January 25, 2007; Joseph S. Bermudez, “North Korea Deploys New Missiles,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, July 30, 2004.

[52] Coughlin, “North Korea Helping Iran with Nuclear Testing.”

[53] Robin Hughes, “Tehran Takes Steps to Protect Nuclear Facilities,” Jane’s Defense Weekly, January 25, 2006, pp. 4-5.

[54] “Assad’s Risky Nuclear Game,” Spiegel Online, June 23, 2008.

[55] Internal memo from House Ranking Member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to Republican members, “North Korea’s Support for Terrorist Groups and State Sponsors of Terrorism,” House Foreign Affairs Committee, May 8, 2008; Larry A. Niksch, “North Korea: Terrorism List Removal,” Congressional Research Service Report RL30613, July 1, 2009, pp. 18-19; Tariq Khaitous, “Is Syria a Candidate for Nuclear Proliferation?,” Nuclear Threat Initiative Issue Brief, March 2008.

[56] “DMZ-DPRK Tunnels,” Global Security; Malcolm Moore, “Inside North Korea’s Third Tunnel of Aggression,” Telegraph, May 26, 2009.

[57] Bertil Lintner, “North Korea’s Tunnels, Guns and Kimchi,” Asia Sentinel, June 11, 2009.

[58] Niksch, “North Korea.”

[59] Internal memo from House Ranking Member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to Republican members.

[60] Ibid.

[61] Takashi Arimoto, “International Document Points Concretely to Close Cooperation Between North Korea, Syria; Syria Also Asked for Assistance to Hizballah,” Sankei Shimbun, January 7, 2008.

[62] William J. Broad, “Iran Shielding Its Nuclear Efforts in Maze of Tunnels,” New York Times, January 6, 2010.

[63] “Tehran Takes Steps to Protect Nuclear Facilities,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, January 25, 2006.

[64] Russell Hsiao, “China’s ‘Underground Great Wall’ and Nuclear Deterrence,” China Brief, Vol. 9, No. 25 (December 16, 2009).

[65] Shirely Kan, “China and Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Missiles: Policy Issues,” CRS Report for Congress, RL31555, December 23, 2009.

[66] Ibid., p. 23.

[67] Ibid.

[68] Nicholas Kralev, “China Fails to Stop Illegal North Korean Arms Shipments,” Washington Times, December 17, 2009.

[69] Debby Wu, “Taiwan Firm: China Got Iran Part with Nuke Uses,” Guardian, January 8, 2010.

[70] Li Kaisheng, “Should China Treat North Korea as an Ally?,” UPI Asia, November 30, 2009; Yang Jung, “North Korea-China Alliance Display Reveals Kim Weakness,” Daily North Korea, November 25, 2009; “China, North Korea Stress Strength of Alliance,” USA Today, November 22, 2009.

[71] Shen Dingli, “North Korea’s Strategic Significance to China,” China Security (Autumn 2006), pp. 19-34.

[72] Ibid, p. 21.

[73] Ibid, pp. 23-24.

[74] Jung Sung-ki, “China Plans $10 Billion Investment in North Korea,” Korea Times, February 15, 2010.

[75] International Crisis Group, Shades of Red: China’s Debate over North Korea, Asia Report No. 179, November 2, 2009, p. 10.

[76] “CSTO to up Security Cooperation with Iran,” PressTV, April 17, 2009; Kaveh L. Afrasiabi, “Russia and Iran Join Hands,” Asia Times Online, July 30, 2009; “Collective Security Treaty Organization,” Wikipedia; Emil Faro, “Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Members,” February 9, 2009, image made using File: Russian Federation (Orthographic Projections). SVG.

[77] Abdullah Toukan and Anthony H. Cordesman, “GCC-Iran: Operational Analysis of Air, SAM and TBM Forces,” CSIS, August 20, 2009.

[78] Chris McGreal, “U.S. Raises Stakes on Iran by Sending in Ships and Missiles,” Guardian, January 31, 2010.

[79] Hans Ruele, “Iran and Russia Hot Double Games: SS-20 Missiles Sold as well as S-300 and Plutonium Breeder,” World Security Network, November 10, 2009.

[80] Ibid.

[81] Nabi Abdullaev, “Venezuela Gets $2.2B Loan for Russian Arms,” Defense News, September 17, 2009.

[82] Franklin Miller, George Robertson and Kori Schake, “Germany Opens Pandora’s Box,” Centre for European Reform Briefing Note, February 2010.

[83] Bruce Jones, “Russia to Launch Largest Military Maneuvers since Cold War,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, August 24, 2009; Thomas Valasek, “NATO, Russia, and European Security,” CER Working Paper November 2009; Miller et al, “Germany Opens Pandora’s Box.”

[84] Christina Y. Lin, “The Writing on the Wall: China-Russia-Iran Axis in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and Nuclear Tipping Points in Middle East and East Asia,” Institute fur Strategie- Politik- Sicherheits- und Wirtschaftsberatung (ISPSW) Berlin? ETH Zurich, January 26, 2010, p. 11.

[85] Lawrence S. Wittner, Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2009), pp. 137, 142.

[86] Ibid., p. 166. Reagan was also a believer in the Bible prophecy of Ezekiel 38 and insisted “the day of Armageddon isn’t far off… Ezekiel says that fire and brimstone will be rained down upon the enemies of God’s people. That must mean that they’ll be destroyed by nuclear weapons,” p. 42.