Pentagon officials tell us China's government failed utterly to come through on private pledges to the Bush administration to halt North Korea's missile tests.
Worse, some officials say, it is likely Beijing deceived the United States about its efforts to dissuade North Korea from the apparent tests and that China may have tacitly backed the seven missile launches earlier this week.
"This demonstrates how impotent the Chinese are and the incredibly low level of influence they have over their North Korean brethren," one official told us.
A second official suggested that China deliberately misled the United States into thinking that it had prevailed on North Korea not to conduct the launches, which have triggered a regional crisis, led by concerns that Japan may impose sanctions.
Chinese government officials "at the highest levels" directly asked North Korean leader Kim Jong-il on several occasions during the past two weeks to turn off plans for missile launches, including the long-range Taepodong-2 that ultimately failed after 42 seconds into flight, the first official said.
"The North Koreans basically stuck their finger in the eyes of the Chinese and went ahead with the tests," this official said.
The official said the failure to stop the launches contrasts with China's efforts to take credit for negotiating the interim Sept. 19 joint statement in the six-party talks on North Korea, which the Chinese saw as a matter of "personal pride."
Now, however, the missile tests have all but scuttled any chance for resuming the stalled six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear arms program.
Officials told us that another failure involved the staff of the White House National Security Council. Acting NSC Asia director Dennis Wilder stated in a classified assessment for President Bush and National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley that China would come through and prevent the North Korean launches.
The failure highlights the continuing intelligence shortfalls on China that often are based on the wishful thinking of pro-China analysts and policy-makers who insist China is a friend of the United States and is supporting U.S. policy objectives.