Pivotal Power

July 30, 2009
Vanadium anyone? China sends Pyongyang a strong message

Okay, so the Strategic and Economic Dialogue did not produce any earth-shattering policy pronouncements, but we shouldn’t have expected any, as I mentioned in this TNR piece. This is the first sit-down, and the very broad scope of it — as well as the number of high-level officials involved — was in and of itself useful in setting the tone of the U.S.-China relationship going forward.

While nothing much happened in DC, perhaps it’s not a coincidence that the very first time China has publically enforced sanctions against North Korea was happening at the same time.

From a Korean newspaper account, pointed out by the Nelson report, comes this:

Chinese customs authorities confiscated 70 kg of vanadium that North Korea tried to smuggle through China. Vanadium has defense and nuclear uses — alloys containing vanadium are used in missile casings — but it was not clear what the stash was to be used for.

Dandong News, a newspaper from the Chinese-North Korean border city of Dandong in Liaoning Province, on Tuesday said the local customs office seized vanadium hidden in six fruit boxes from a truck heading to North Korea last Saturday. The confiscated material was contained in 68 bottles hidden among fruit and is worth 200,000 yuan, it said.

Vanadium is resistant to corrosion by sulfuric and hydrochloric acid and strengthens steel. It is alloyed with steel to make jet engines, missile casings and superconducting magnets.

This is a fairly big deal.  China has voted for sanctions before, but enforcing them — and doing so publically — is new.  Beijing is clearly trying to get Pyongyang’s attention.

– Nina Hachigian


1 comment


“Vanadium is resistant to corrosion…”

If only North Korean
were as resistant
in the same manner
to the corrosions
various Perspectives
Modern Life
the worser Elements
from the
subterranean Details
involved in perusing
the sunny surfaces
the Concious Mind
the darker landscapes
the Subconcious…

North Korea
should be good
at delving
into the deeper
of Human Thinking…
since they have
…long since…
proven themselves
good at digging…


Nina Hachigian is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and the co-author of “The Next American Century: How the U.S. Can Thrive as Other Powers Rise.” She has worked on the staff of the National Security Council in the White House and been a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation. She specializes in U.S.-China relations and great power relationships, multilateral institutions and U.S. foreign policy.

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