After nearly a year of staunchly opposing sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program, Chinese President Hu Jintao has agreed to attend an April nuclear summit in Washington, D.C., to discuss the issue. Hu's move signals an unprecedented willingness to consider supporting sanctions, which he has been able to unilaterally block as a veto-wielding member of the United Nations Security Council. The U.S. has struggled and failed to secure Chinese support for sanctions since September, when the advanced scale of Iran's nuclear program was first discovered. China is now positioning itself to finally come around. Will they?
- A Big Shift, but Not Definitive Foreign Policy's Colum Lynch calls the move "the most encouraging signal from Beijing in months" but reminds us that China "continues to argue that negotiations, not economic sanctions, constitute the best way to bring about change in Tehran." This is a big step towards tough sanctions, but hardly a sea change.
- What Obama Will Ask For Newsweek's Katie Paul deduces from an earlier, leaked document: "A comprehensive arms embargo, a freeze on the Revolutionary Guard's assets, expanded authority to search and seize suspicious cargo headed to Iran, and a ban on offering credit to Iran."
- Especially Surprising Given U.S.-China Tension The New York Times' Andrew Jacobs writes, "American officials feared that Mr. Hu would boycott the talks to express China’s displeasure over a series of recent diplomatic clashes, including a White House decision to sell arms to Taiwan and President Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader. Relations appeared to hit a low point last week when Google, citing Chinese censorship, moved its Internet search engine to Hong Kong from the mainland." Does this show that the tension wasn't as bad as it looked?
- Huge for Obama's Anti-Nuke Hopes Spencer Ackerman writes, "This is big for Obama. Ever since Friday’s announcement of the New START arms-reduction treaty with the Russians, the administration has painted a picture of cascading and compounding action over the next couple of months on Obama’s anti-nuclear agenda." No one expects nukes to go away forever anytime soon, "But the next several months are about creating and entrenching what a world that at least embraces that ultimate objective would look like."
- Trouble for China-Iran Partnership? The two nations have been close and, according to the BBC, want to stay that way. "This would mark a policy shift for China, which has strong ties with Iran. China says it wants a peaceful outcome," BBC reports. "Meanwhile Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili arrived in Beijing for 'bilateral talks and to discuss the nuclear issue', Iran's Irna news agency reported. 'The relationship between Iran and China is very important, and it is very important for our two countries to cooperate on all the issues,' he told Iranian media."
- What China's Getting in Return The New York Times' Andrew Jacobs suspects it's about currency. "Mr. Hu's visit also will take place two days before the Obama administration is expected to decide on whether to accuse China of artificially suppressing the value of its currency. Pressure in the United States has been building in recent months to label China a 'currency manipulator,'" he writes. "But given the potential for embarrassing the Chinese leader — and for sending bilateral relations into another tailspin — it would appear unlikely for such a decision to come on April 15," the deadline.