Cablegate: Prc/Iran: Beijing Continues to Call for Patience

DE RUEHBJ #0293/01 0351122
O 041122Z FEB 10



E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/04/2035


Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Aubrey Carlson.
Reasons 1.4 (b/d).

1. (C) SUMMARY: The PRC counsels continued patience on the
Iran nuclear issue because it seeks a "thorough solution" to
the problem, and it supports the removal of all 1200kg of
low-enriched uranium from Iranian soil, according to an MFA
contact. PRC officials have urged Iranian counterparts in
recent months to accept the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR)
proposal and other P5-plus-1 overtures, and the Iranians have
indicated interest in re-opening discussion of the details of
these agreements, according to the MFA. New sanctions,
however, would have a negative effect on Iranian cooperation
with the international community, our contact claimed. He
suggested that internal political pressure on Iranian
President Ahmadinejad increases the incentive for returning
to negotiations, and claimed that Ahmadinejad still enjoys
the full support of Supreme Leader Khamenei. He acknowledged
that China is receiving expressions of concern on the nuclear
issue from Middle Eastern diplomats, but a contact at the
Israeli Embassy claimed that Beijing was entirely dismissive
of these concerns. END SUMMARY.

2. (C) In recent MFA press conferences, PRC officials have
expressed China's opposition at present to new sanctions to
deal with the Iranian nuclear issue, calling instead for
"flexibility and a pragmatic approach" from the international
community (reftels). PolOff met with MFA West Asian Affairs
Department Iran Division Deputy Director Ni Ruchi February 3
to discuss the issue.

PRC Seeks Continued Patience and "Thorough Solution"
--------------------------------------------- -------

3. (C) Clarifying these calls for flexibility, Ni said that a
single year of the new approach from the Obama administration
was not enough time to overcome 30 years of enmity between
the U.S. and Iran. He stressed the importance of slowly
building mutual trust, and estimated that another 6-12 months
would be needed to bring the Iranians around to agreeing to
take concrete steps on the nuclear program. He said that the
PRC sought a "thorough solution" to the nuclear issue through
improving mutual trust between Iran and the United States and
Europe, and called the U.S.-Iran relationship the "major
obstacle" in this process.

PRC: Sanctions Risk Increasing Iranian Defiance
--------------------------------------------- --

4. (C) Ni claimed that based on his conversations with
Iranian officials, he thought Tehran would not likely yield
in the face of tougher sanctions from the P5-plus-1, but
would instead react negatively by curbing cooperation with
the international community. He acknowledged that some
pressure was needed to make the choice clear for Iran, but
had no suggestions to offer on what kind of pressure the PRC
could support in lieu of multilateral economic sanctions.
PolOff stressed the importance of fully using the dual-track
approach, including increasing pressure through meaningful UN
Security Council action, in order to persuade Iran to take
the path of engagement with the international community.

PRC Pushing Iran to Allow Uranium to Go Abroad
--------------------------------------------- -

5. (C) Ni argued that PRC efforts to keep the Iranians
engaged with the P5-plus-1 had been intense in recent months.
He claimed that in addition to then-AFM (now-VFM) Zhai Jun's
visit to Tehran in November, MFA West Asian and African
Affairs Department Director General Song Aiguo had met with
his counterparts in Tehran the week of January 25 to urge
flexibility on the nuclear issue and a return to negotiations
with the P5-plus-1. He said the Iranians told the PRC
delegations that they had not fully rejected negotiations
with the P5-plus-1 and were willing to discuss ideas for
processing LEU currently in Iran outside the country.

PRC: Uranium Could Leave Iran in Tranches

6. (C) According to Ni, the Iranians said that parameters for
discussion on uranium processing could include timing,
location, and moving the uranium out in tranches. The PRC
had noted the proposal from Turkey that addressed these
concerns, Ni added, and the Iranians had told their Chinese
counterparts that they were willing to accept the Turkish

BEIJING 00000293 002 OF 002

plan. Ni claimed that for China, removing the 1200kg of
uranium from Iran for processing abroad remained the goal of
their engagement. He suggested the P5-plus-1 discuss with
the Iranians the details of uranium removal. He cautioned
that Iran would not entirely capitulate to U.S. and European
demands, but a compromise might be obtainable. Ni pointed to
comments made by President Ahmadinejad on Iranian television
February 2 indicating that he was not opposed to processing
Iranian uranium abroad in tranches. Ni suggested offering a
plan under which the Iranian uranium was exported in three
batches of 400kg each, while reiterating that removing all
1200kg from Iran remained China's goal. PolOff stressed that
the TRR proposal presented to Iran accommodated Iranian
concerns, demonstrated flexibility, and gave Iran an
opportunity to show its peaceful intentions, and that the
terms Iran was floating would delay the transfer of LEU out
of Iran and not increase the confidence of the international

Internal Pressure is Incentive for Negotiation
--------------------------------------------- -

7. (C) Ni said that China assessed that Ahmadinejad remained
under significant political pressure stemming from the June
2009 election and subsequent unrest. The political situation
remained complex, he added, but the state so far was still
able to keep the opposition movement fully under control. He
surmised that opposition activities would continue in the
coming months and suggested that such activities increased
Ahmadinejad's incentive to negotiate on the nuclear issue,
because decreasing pressure on the nuclear issue would allow
Ahmadinejad to focus on strengthening his position
internally. Ni assessed that Ahmadinejad continued to enjoy
full support from Supreme Leader Khamenei.

Little Urgency over Regional Dimension

8. (C) Israel, Saudi Arabia and other regional actors had
expressed serious concern to the PRC over the Iranian nuclear
program and its implications for regional security, Ni
reported. Without acknowledging the legitimacy of these
arguments, Ni said that the PRC had stressed to these
interlocutors the importance of increased transparency from
the Iranians to make clear their intentions in developing
nuclear technology. He noted that Iran's cooperation with
the IAEA had been "generally good," but was unsatisfactory in
some areas, and Beijing had told the Iranians that they
should discuss these areas with the P5-plus-1. Ni argued
that if Iran were interested in weaponizing its nuclear
technology, it would do so in secret, but the fact that the
regime made a public display of its progress in the nuclear
field argued for its peaceful nature.

Israeli Contact: PRC Dismissing Concerns from the Region
--------------------------------------------- -----------

9. (C) Israeli EmbOff Guy Kivetz told PolOff February 2 that
his Embassy had regularly over the last year articulated to
PRC interlocutors Israeli concerns over the Iranian nuclear
program and its profound implications for security in the
Middle East. He said that PRC interlocutors had never
acknowledged the validity of this line of argument, but in
recent months had become entirely dismissive of the argument.
He said that PRC officials were convinced that Israel was
overstating the level of concern over the issue and
internally the PRC was rejecting the conclusions of
intelligence provided by Israel and other countries about
Iran's technical progress on the nuclear program. He said
that PRC policy-makers were convinced that no country,
including Israel, was in a position to respond with force to
Iran's development of nuclear technology and had likely
concluded that the development by Iran of nuclear weapons was

Chinese Outreach to Brazil

10. (C) Brazilian Embassy Second Secretary Henri Carrieres
told PolOff February 4 that PRC officials had met with
Brazilian counterparts in recent weeks to articulate strong
PRC opposition to additional sanctions at this time,
including during a visit to China of Deputy Foreign Minister
Roberto Jaguaribe February 2. Carrieres declined to detail
whether China directly sought support in the UNSC from
Brazil, currently a non-permanent member, to prevent a
sanctions resolution from succeeding.


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