February 11, 2005

IF CHINA WANTS TO BE A RIVAL WHAT DO WE CARE ABOUT THE FALLOUT?:

Did Kim Jung Il miscalculate?: China may now be forced to trump N. Korea's playing the nuclear card. (Jim Bencivenga, 2/11/05, csmonitor.com)

North Korea declared itself a nuclear power on Thursday. The Stalinist state coupled a unilateral admission of possessing nuclear weapons with the assertion that it would not take part in "six-nation talks aimed at ending the [nuclear arms] crisis," on the Korean peninsula.

Both statements appeared to catch the US by surprise, as wll as China, South Korea, Japan, and Russia, despite the fact that this was the third time in two years that N. Korea pulled the diplomatic rug out from under international talks.

A consensus of the parties involved seemed to be that the next move was China's responsibility to confront its ally with the untenable position of nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula.


We've got all the hole cards here, since the effects of our taking on the North Korea regime, from military destruction to refugee problems, will fall on North Korea, China, and S. Korea, not us. By merely threatening to destabilize the regime we can make the others act.


MORE:
Beijing counts cost of supporting an embarrassing old friend (Hamish McDonald, February 12, 2005, Sydney Morning Herald)

Chinese scholars in government think tanks say a high degree of ambiguity has been deliberately inserted by the country's leadership under President Hu Jintao into Beijing's treaty obligations to North Korea.
AdvertisementAdvertisement

A debate has begun in policy circles as to whether Beijing should go further and propose an amendment to the 1961 mutual security treaty, to remove pledges of military assistance in the event of attack.

The treaty's second article says both sides "promise to jointly take all possible measures to prevent any country from invading either of the contracting parties. Whenever one contracting party suffers a military attack by one state or several states combined and therefore is in a state of war, the other contracting party should do all it can to offer military and other aid".

The undercutting of China's defence guarantee is part of a delicate carrot-and-stick approach by Beijing to edge North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-il, into verifiable nuclear disarmament in return for a new security deal with the US and its regional allies, along with economic aid.

As well as the huge casualties involved in saving the North Korean regime in 1950-53, for which Chinese say there is little gratitude shown, scholars and presumably officials here are starting to list the other costs.

Notably, it may have cost Taiwan. Many Western specialists agree that China's intervention in Korea swung Washington back behind the discredited Chinese nationalist regime of Chiang Kai-shek on Taiwan as an anti-communist bastion in Asia, laying the foundations for continuing US defence guarantees for the island republic.

"In the eyes of many people in China, had there not been the Korean War and China's forced involvement, there would not have existed a Taiwan question today," said Xiao Ren of the Shanghai Institute for International Studies in a paper read to Western scholars in December.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 11, 2005 1:29 PM
Comments

The answer seems fairly simple, albeit grotesque, to me. Tell China to deal with North Korea, or we'll give nukes to Japan. If that won't do it, tell them to deal with NK, or we'll give nukes to Japan and Taiwan.

Posted by: Timothy at February 11, 2005 1:58 PM

The announcement was a wonderful, for us, forcing event. Looks like it's roll-call time in the Pacific and we don't have to lift a finger.

Posted by: Luciferous at February 11, 2005 1:59 PM

"We've got all the hole cards here, since the effects of our taking on the North Korea regime, from military destruction to refugee problems, will fall on North Korea, China, and S. Korea, not us. By merely threatening to destabilize the regime we can make the others act."

Shya right. Like Iraq, I suppose.

The effects of taking on the North Korea regime will fall on the US too, and pretending otherwise won't change that. If nuclear weapons proliferate, if N Korea sells them worldwide or they merely disappear and resurface during/after war, the US will feel the effects.

I see a lot of wishful thinking.

Posted by: tubino at February 11, 2005 2:02 PM

I'll bet China's envoys in NK are screaming like mashed cats. Kim's announcement is certainly not something China wants or needs at this time.

Posted by: at February 11, 2005 2:09 PM

Hell, even if the traditional expectation is realized (NK swarms over Seol) then the world economy goes down. NK holds the cards. That is why Bush is dancing to Il's tune.


-

Posted by: jri at February 11, 2005 2:17 PM

US was sticking with Chiang Kai-shek, regardless of the Korean War in my humble opinion. Sell him out to gain good relations with the Communist? Not likely.

Posted by: h-man at February 11, 2005 2:21 PM

If we were willing to whack Mossadegh and Arbenz, we certainly weren't going to run out on Chiang Kai-Shek who actually had supporters in America.

If, in the next few months, we don't hear that Little Kim has had a dreadful accident, then we are in for serious trouble. That will mean the PRC hasn't been able or has been unwilling to get rid of him. And Little Kim is loopy enough to fire nukes at other nations even if his gets annihilated in the process.

Betting on the ability of the PRC to unify behind an aggressive course of action of any kind is not a safe wager. They simply are too divided.

Posted by: Bart at February 11, 2005 3:06 PM

Timothy:

I'm not sure about Taiwan, but Japan will have nukes within a year when they decide they want them, whether the US helps or not. They already have perfectly servicable ICBMs. And I doubt they're under any illusions about how the Koreans feel about Japan...

Posted by: Mike Earl at February 11, 2005 3:15 PM

Interestingly the NRO piece on this subject said one Japanese governor dared NK to fire one over and see what happens. Not the attitude of the dying, cowed culture Japan is accused -- with good resason -- of having on this site.

I think the other parties will try to reinterpret this as just another case of Kimmy banging his spoon against his high chair and not a major change in policy. In the past, translation errors have provided an excuse for ignoring NK's statements.

But OJ's statement that we can presure the other powers by threatening to destabilize is on pretty solid ground and I think this is what's happening. There has been some odd traffic coming out of NK over the last 2 years.

I'd like to see China act like a real country and occupy NK under some internationally sanctioned aegis after helping the neighbors and the US depose Kimmy. The fact that they won't step up is evidence to me that they're not ready for prime time.

Posted by: JAB at February 11, 2005 4:00 PM

As well as the huge casualties involved in saving the North Korean regime in 1950-53, for which Chinese say there is little gratitude shown, scholars and presumably officials here are starting to list the other costs.

---

We do have something in common. We understand little gratitude.

Posted by: Sandy P at February 11, 2005 4:44 PM

North Korea having nukes and overtly using them within their area would really be only a five-day problem, if that. It wouldn't be good for the target nation/city, of course, assuming their technology actually works, but little Kim and his regime would then be taken out in a matter of hours and he would no longer be an issue on the world stage.

The bigger problem is North Korea becomming a covert supplier of nuclear weapons to the highest bidders outside of their immediate area. Then you've got to track the weapons down and trace their source back to justify action against North Korea, or else be willing to stomach the criticism you're going to get for a pre-emptive attack. And all the folks complaining about Bush going into Iraq when Saddam had no weapons while North Korea is out there, would then start treating Kim Il Jong like the patron saint of innocence if the U.S. threatened to go in without anything short of radioactive fallout over Seoul as proof.

Posted by: John at February 11, 2005 5:15 PM
« THE PROCESS PARTY: | Main | WHAT BRITAIN?: »