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Viewing cable 09BEIJING2494, PRC/IRAN: CHINA IN WAIT-AND-SEE MODE BILATERALLY

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09BEIJING2494 2009-09-01 12:12 2010-11-28 18:06 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Beijing
VZCZCXRO6005
OO RUEHBC RUEHCN RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHGH RUEHKUK RUEHTRO RUEHVC
DE RUEHBJ #2494/01 2441218
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 011218Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY BEIJING
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5857
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIJING 002494 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/01/2034 
TAGS: PREL PARM ENRG PTER MNUC IR CH
SUBJECT: PRC/IRAN: CHINA IN WAIT-AND-SEE MODE BILATERALLY 
BUT PUSHING FOR DIALOGUE 
 
Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Aubrey Carlson. 
Reasons 1.4 (b/d). 
 
1. (C) SUMMARY:  China is biding its time until the political 
crisis in Iran reaches a clearer resolution and the 
Ahmadinejad government consolidates power, and will signal 
its renewed engagement by sending a high-level delegation to 
Tehran once the political situation has been resolved, 
according to an MFA official.  Our contact reaffirmed China's 
commitment to the P5-plus-1 process and assessed that Iran is 
attempting to keep the door to negotiation with the United 
States open despite the turmoil surrounding the June 
election, but cautioned that a complete halt to uranium 
enrichment is an unattainable goal.  China continues to urge 
Iran to respond positively to the P5-plus-1 offer for talks, 
and these entreaties have been passed directly to Supreme 
Leader Khamenei.  Iran reportedly requested to upgrade its 
relationship with Beijing to a "strategic partnership," but 
China refused.  A Communist Party official told us that the 
CCP is seeking to increase its relations with six major 
political parties and factions in Iran and deepen its 
understanding of U.S. policy in the Middle East.  He repeated 
China's standard position on the Iran nuclear issue and 
suggested that the U.S. offer economic incentives to persuade 
the Iranians to enter into talks on the nuclear issue.  He 
dismissed concerns that negative perceptions in the Middle 
East of China after the July violence in Xinjiang province 
would affect China's diplomacy with Iran.  END SUMMARY. 
 
2. (C) PolOff discussed Iran-China relations with MFA West 
Asian Affairs Department Iran Division Deputy Director Ni 
Ruchi August 31.  In a separate meeting the same day, Chinese 
Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee International Liaison 
Department (CCID) Third Bureau (West Asia and North Africa) 
Director Wu Baocai gave PolOff the Party's perspective on 
Iran and the nuclear issue. 
 
Holding Back Bilaterally until Political Dust Settles 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 
 
3. (C) MFA Iran Division Deputy Director Ni said that the 
political turmoil in Iran had yet to settle and that China 
was still waiting for the situation to calm further before 
re-engaging fully in bilateral relations.  He argued that the 
internal divisions that had played out in the June 
presidential elections had existed well before the violent 
aftermath of the June election.  China had been aware of the 
potential for conflict among those divisions to spill into 
the street and had taken a cautious approach before the 
election.  He said that the Chinese government understood 
that the election was a strong indication of deep-seated 
divisions within the Iranian government, but stressed that 
the contested election had not fundamentally undermined the 
current government and that China would continue with its 
normal engagement with Tehran. 
 
4. (C) China would signal its re-engagement, Ni reported, 
with a high-level delegation to Tehran, but there was no 
timetable for such a visit yet because the leadership in 
Tehran was still fully focused on consolidating power.  He 
noted that during his mid-August visit to Iran, protestors 
had continued to take to the streets to express 
dissatisfaction with the election.  Ni reaffirmed China's 
commitment to the P5-plus-1 process, stressing that the U.S. 
and China not only had common interests in Iran, but the 
scope of this common interest was increasing. 
 
Iran Keeping the Door Open? 
--------------------------- 
 
5. (C) Ni said that China had taken note of efforts by the 
Iranian government to keep a path open to direct negotiations 
despite the ongoing political turmoil.  He claimed that 
Tehran had refrained from overplaying its accusations of the 
U.S. role in the election turmoil, preferring to point the 
finger at European countries, indicating that the Iranian 
leadership was interested in maintaining the possibility of 
direct talks.  Ni said that the election had caused the 
Iranian leadership to reexamine seriously its foreign policy, 
particularly on the nuclear issue, adding that Iran's nuclear 
development had suffered technical setbacks recently, which 
had also forced the leadership to consider how to move 
forward. 
 
China Lobbying but Total Halt to Enrichment Unattainable 
--------------------------------------------- ----------- 
 
6. (C) Ni reported that China continued to urge Iran at every 
level of their engagement to respond positively to the 
P53-plus-1 offer of direct talks and cease uranium enrichment 
 
BEIJING 00002494  002 OF 002 
 
 
activities.  He said that Chinese leaders had pointed out to 
their Iranian counterparts on many occasions that the United 
States had shown "restraint" in its public comments during 
the June election aftermath, and that Iran was missing an 
important opportunity by refusing to respond to the P5-plus-1 
offer.  Ni said that China's message encouraging greater 
engagement had been passed directly to Supreme Leader 
Khamenei.  He cautioned that Tehran would not be able to 
respond positively to P5-plus-1 overtures until it had 
reinforced its position at home, and that a "100-percent" 
halt to uranium enrichment had become an unattainable goal. 
Ni said that China continued to believe that fresh sanctions 
would be ineffective in persuading Iran to cease enrichment 
activities and would be counter-productive by increasing the 
unity of the various factions in Iran behind the nuclear 
program and the current government.  Ni argued that the 
regime in Iran would emerge from the crisis in a weakened 
position and thus more likely to negotiate with the P5-plus-1 
on the nuclear issue. 
 
Iran Seeks "Strategic Partnership" with an Unwilling PRC 
--------------------------------------------- ----------- 
 
7. (C) Ni said that Iran had requested that Beijing upgrade 
its relationship with Tehran, presumably to counter Western 
pressure, by lobbying Beijing to label its relationship with 
Iran a "strategic partnership" as it does for Russia and 
other countries.  Ni said that China had so far refused to do 
so and Iran was frustrated with China's continuing insistence 
that the two countries shared merely "normal" relations. 
 
Party Seeks to Increase its Interaction with Iran 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
8. (C) CCP Central Committee International Liaison Department 
(CCID) Third Bureau (West Asia and North Africa) Director Wu 
Baocai told PolOff August 31 that the CCP was seeking to 
increase its relations with six major political parties and 
factions in Iran.  He noted that links between the CCP and 
Iranian political parties had lagged behind the growth in 
relations between executive branches and far behind the 
increase in economic links.  He said that deepening 
understanding among the CCP leadership of the U.S. position 
on Iran was another emerging priority for his office and that 
he was open to continued exchanges with the U.S. on the 
nuclear issue. 
 
CCP Perspective on Iran Nuclear Program 
--------------------------------------- 
 
9. (C) Wu said that CCP officials were increasingly concerned 
through 2008 at the possibility of the United States taking 
military action against Iran's nuclear program but assessed 
that such a possibility was much lower in 2009.  He noted 
that sanctions had not only failed to change Iranian behavior 
and create meaningful effects in Iran but were negatively 
affecting the countries joining in the international effort 
to persuade Iran to stop its nuclear activities, citing as an 
example constraints placed on Chinese banks from doing 
business with Iran.  He said that he believed the 
international community was unlikely to be able to persuade 
Iran to fully abandon its enrichment activities and suggested 
the U.S. offer modest economic benefits as an incentive to 
persuade Iran to enter into dialogue.  Wu reiterated China's 
strong opposition to Iran using its nuclear technology to 
develop nuclear weapons but stressed the right of all 
countries to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. 
 
Iran Relations Unaffected by Xinjiang Violence 
--------------------------------------------- - 
 
10. (C) Wu dismissed concerns that dismay in Iran and other 
parts of the Middle East over China's treatment of ethnic 
Uighurs in Xinjiang province would complicate China's 
diplomacy with Iran.  While acknowledging that some 
high-level religious leaders in Iran had been highly critical 
of China in the wake of the July violence in Xinjiang, he 
said that Beijing was seeking to counter the danger of China 
becoming a target for anger in the Muslim world by 
significantly increasing its media outreach in the Middle 
East, citing the recent establishment of an Arabic-language 
version of government-run CCTV. 
HUNTSMAN