Kim crosses China’s line

Brinkmanship does not work beyond the brink.

“Either a nuclear-equipped DPRK or a collapsed DPRK,” Wu Chaofan concludes, “would cause disastrous interruption of the process of China’s peaceful development.” As long as the North Korean regime was playing inside these boundaries it was possible for China to use the situation to apply strategic pressure on the United States, Japan and South Korea. The threat from North Korea prevents the United States from concentrating its resources on Taiwan, and to that extent, reduces China’s cost of maintaining a balance of power across the Taiwan straits.

So it would be terrible for China if North Korea crossed those boundaries.

…many Chinese experts and advisors are more concerned with the threat Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons poses to China’s security. After adoption of Resolution 1874, the DPRK responded with a big rally in its capital. Its leaders announced that the country would stick to its own path, regardless of whether friendly countries sided with it and the effect on international aid. Such an attitude on the part of Pyongyang is a warning that China should reconsider its national interests.

Pyongyang’s nuclear tests, which took place only tens of kilometers from the Chinese border, might cause an environmental catastrophe in a densely populated area, not to speak of the threat it is to peace and stability in East Asia and the world as a whole. Any deadly accident following Pyongyang’s nuclear tests would not only inflict enormous losses on the Korean people but also seriously damage the environment in Northeast China and the surrounding region. [China Daily]

Mr Wu quotes two Chinese scholars who essentially warn North Korea’s neighbours to be prepared for the worst. China has been unable to persuade North Korea to stand down. Meanwhile Japan and South Korea have not only taken a hard line against Pyongyang, but have—in the delicate style of East Asian diplomacy—asked China to deliver. More than the US airstrikes that the Chinese scholars warn about, the real threat to China comes from the prospect of both Japan and South Korea developing their own nuclear deterrents.

If the North Koreans don’t oblige, then China will be, well, in a soup.

9 thoughts on “Kim crosses China’s line”

  1. Comment got eaten up half way.

    NoKo’s odious regime is many things but suicidal it is not. For 50 yrs they stayed away frm suicide knowing what to ytake on and what not to. Taking on PRC is not in their interest. Do you disagree?

  2. Sud,

    It is a proxy. How much control Beijing has over Pyongyang is another matter. To believe that it has 100% coercive and veto constrains good analysis.

    Even during the Cold War, despite what people believed Castro was doing things despite the Soviet Union’s disapproval. People who thought he was a sock puppet got it wrong.

    The real world is more complex—unfortunately. That’s why G2 and Chimerica and other Brzezinski fantasies are follies.

  3. I think the sting is in the final sentence: ‘…the real threat to China comes from the prospect of both Japan and South Korea developing their own nuclear deterrents’.

    But aren’t these countries (at least on paper) protected by an American nuclear shield? And wouldn’t both the US and China for their own reasons not want these countries to have their own deterrent?

  4. Photonman,

    Yes, they are under the American nuclear umbrella. China is unlikely to see an American presence/security guarantee in East Asia as being in its interests. Getting the US out of there is certainly one of China’s longer term objectives.

    At the same time, despite the US “umbrella”, the South Koreans and Japanese are unlikely to risk their existence on the goodwill of their ally. They are very close to nuclearisation in any case. If they do go nuclear, then China will enter a nuclear deterrence relationship with these economically powerful countries.

    China’s most preferred outcome is for the US to get out of the region while remaining the sole nuclear power in East Asia. North Korea’s actions are putting this in jeopardy: either the US will be further entrenched, or Japan & South Korea will go nuclear, or both. Hence the “shift in thinking”

  5. I think the only lever the rest of the world has on China, is the potential nuclearisation of Japan or South Korea or both. Since, China has not been sincere about pushing North Korea, to stop the provocations, what are Japan & South Korea waiting for? Till they get nuked by North Korea? At the rate at which North Korea is going, it doesnt look that far away. Till they up the ante.

    The current approach to NK, has only made them bolder, & brash.
    Unlike Iraq (which was only suspected of development), North Korea has actually tested nuclear bombs & fired missiles. The current response of the world, will only encourage others, to push the boundaries of what they can get away with. I agree going to war or bombing NK, is very difficult (cost, lives, potential devastation, unintended consequences etc. etc.) in whatever way one sees it. But sitting & hoping for the best, seems only to make the matter worse, not only will North Korea become a bigger problem, but it would inspire other countries to do the same.

    What do you think?

  6. I don’t get what the post is about. Isn’t North Korea already nuclear? And didn’t it get the technology from Pakis in exchange for long range missiles facilitated by China itself. I wonder where it got the centrifuges from! I don’t understand why China now thinks nuclear weapons in North Korea is a bad thing.

    Fact is China likes a poverty ridden North Korea as a buffer between itself and South Korea. Why have a large united Korea – another powerhouse and claim to competition when there is already Japan to deal with. One can always play victimhood to push Japanese around. So there is no real challenge to China on North-east Asia.

    Photonman, that’s what the Japanese thought, but they were taken aback when US made a side deal with Uttara Korea by removing it from terror sponsoring nations list ignoring the state of kidnapped Japanese that Japan wanted back before removing it from the list. Even otherwise, will US today, without any big fight like anti-communism, sacrifice LA for Toyko? Can anyone really consider US reliable to protect others anymore when it involves death of americans, even soliders? One has to suspend reality to believe that.

  7. Even if NoKo is not PRC’s sock-puppet, let’s hope it is more of a PRC Taliban – having a (warped) mind of its own.

    If SoKo and Japan go nuclear, nothing really to stop Taiwan from going down the same road now, is there? And maybe Dilli can sign bilateral nuclear-co-op agreements with these new NWSs now, eh?

    Yahan, on the west, dunno how much PRC is involved in proliefrating to Iran but Iran going nuclear has another domino effect on the sunny-sunni gulf states.

    Interesting times ahead.

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