The Chinese were told that Israel regards Iran’s nuclear program as an “existential issue and that countries that have an existential issue don’t listen to other countries,” according to a senior administration official. The implication was clear: Israel could bomb Iran, leading to a crisis in the Persian Gulf region and almost inevitably problems over the very oil China needs to fuel its economic juggernaut, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Earlier this week, the White House got its answer. China informed the United States that it would support a toughly worded, U.S.-backed statement criticizing the Islamic republic for flouting U.N. resolutions by constructing a secret uranium-enrichment plant. The statement, obtained by The Washington Post, is part of a draft resolution to be taken up as soon as Thursday by the 35 nations that make up the governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog.
While largely symbolic, it is the first such declaration since 2006 to be backed by both China and Russia. And the statement marks a departure for China, which has long refrained from criticizing Iran’s nuclear policies. The issue of how China will handle the Iranian nuclear issue has emerged as an early test of what Obama has described as a relationship that “will shape the 21st century.”