2010/11/30

China urges US action over WikiLeaks revelations

WASHINGTON, November 30, 2010 (AFP) - China on Tuesday urged the US to "properly handle" fallout from a slew of leaked cables that revealed that Beijing, long seen as North Korea's protector, would accept a reunited Korean peninsula.

"We hope the US side will properly handle relevant issues," foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said as WikiLeaks made the latest batch of secret cables public amid heightened tensions between Pyongyang and Seoul.

"We don't want to see any disturbance to China-US relations," Hong added, after leaks showed that China turned a blind eye to North Korean missile parts exports and that the top Chinese leadership was behind cyberattacks on Google.

The leaked cables have left diplomats worldwide red-faced and drew the ire of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who called their release an "attack" on the US and the world.

The cables quoted diplomats as saying that China increasingly doubts its own influence over Pyongyang and that Beijing considers the "spoiled child" regime's nuclear programme to be "very troublesome."

The memos became public a week after North Korea shelled a South Korean border island, killing four people and sending tensions soaring.

Allegations from the 250,000 cables include that Iran's supreme leader has cancer and will die "within months" and that Saudi King Abdullah urged the US to attack Iran and "cut off the head of the snake" over its nuclear programme.

"We are taking aggressive steps to hold responsible those who stole this information," Clinton said.

The flood of leaked US diplomatic cables -- most of which date from between 2007 and February 2010 -- has revealed secret details and indiscreet asides on some of the world's most tense international issues.

WikiLeaks gave the cables to journalists from five Western publications several weeks ago, and they are being released on the Internet in stages.

WikiLeaks creator Julian Assange described the mass of documentation as a "diplomatic history of the United States" covering "every major issue."

In an interview with Forbes magazine, Assange said WikiLeaks next big document dump will target "a big US bank" early next year.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs fired back, calling WikiLeaks and others who leak documents "criminals, first and foremost."

He added, however, that he did not believe the release "impacts our ability to conduct a foreign policy that moves our interests forward."

US Attorney General Eric Holder said there was an "ongoing criminal investigation" of the leaks and vowed to pursue Assange, an Australian believed to be living in Europe, if he is found to have violated US law.

Despite a last-minute cyber attack claimed by a private computer hacker, WikiLeaks on Sunday began publishing 251,287 cables -- 15,652 of which are classified "secret" -- on http://cablegate.wikileaks.org.

US officials had raced to contain the fallout last week by warning more than a dozen governments but refused to negotiate with WikiLeaks.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Tuesday that Arab countries should not fall into the whistleblower's "trap" after memos suggested Gulf states wanted a US military strike on the Islamic republic.

"This is a very suspicious plot. They have planted some Western and US crimes in them to present them as credible," Mehmanparast said.

But "the enemies of the Islamic world are pursuing a project of Iranophobia and disunity. This project only protects the interests of the Zionist regime and its supporters," he said, referring to Israel.

US officials have not confirmed the source of the leaks, but suspicion has fallen on Bradley Manning, a former army intelligence analyst arrested after the release of a video showing air strikes that killed reporters in Iraq.

WikiLeaks argues that its first two document dumps -- nearly 500,000 US military reports from 2004 to 2009 -- shed light on abuses in Afghanistan and Iraq, and denies any individual has been harmed by its disclosures.