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Great Game: Stepping It Up

China is actively assisting North Korea’s missile program, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told the House Armed Services Committee today. As the Guardian reports,

“I’m sure there’s been some help coming from China. I don’t know, you know, the exact extent of that,” Panetta told members of the House armed services committee when asked whether China had been supporting North Korea’s missile programme through “trade and technology exchanges.” . . .

On Wednesday, Pyongyang said it was ready to retaliate in the face of widespread condemnation of the failed launch, increasing the likelihood it will go ahead with a third nuclear test. . . .

On Thursday, South Korea said it had added a cruise missile to its arsenal that could hit anywhere in the North.

There have been a number of missile tests in Asia this month. India successfully tested a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile capable of dropping a nuclear warhead almost anywhere in China.

China, we know, has long supported the regime in North Korea. Facing the facts of a potential arms race and its one solid ally Myanmar cozying up to Japan and the West, China may find North Korea to be a more important geostrategic tool. But Pyongyang is unpopular (to say the least) with China’s other neighbors, and closer ties will feed distrust of China throughout the region. It’s up to Beijing to decide whether North Korea is worth the trouble.

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  • Anthony

    To China WRM, North Korea remains an important geostrategic zone of influence. China certainly understands how its currently assessed by neighbors in Northeast Asia – therefore its border ally North Korea aids its regional balancing; the great game continues but the architecture is uncertain (without informed judgments).

  • Corlyss

    No! Really?! What was Panetta’s first clue?

  • Luke Lea

    I doubt China will want to help arm its near neighbor, N. Korea, with nuclear tipped long-range missiles. Maybe the appearance of same is some kind of bargaining chip.

    Likewise I wouldn’t put too much stock in this week’s announcement out of Peking of loosening the peg of their currency against the dollar. The Politboro has enough on its plate for the moment not to get into a major trade disagreement with Washington. (I wouldn’t trust China’s economic statistics either, any of them.)

  • Douglas Levene

    China’s legitimate strategic interest in the Korean peninsula is to make sure that there are no foreign (American) troops stationed on the border of China. This suggests a way out for China, the US and South Korea that would be a win-win for them all. These three parties should agree on the following:

    1) North Korea would be merged with and into South Korea, with South Korea becoming a neutral country but with the same government and political structure it has now. All American troops would be withdrawn to Japan or Australia.

    2) The North Korean generals who control that country (you don’t really think that fat little twerp is actually calling the shots, do you?) would be pensioned off – My guess is $100-200 million each, deposited in Swiss bank accounts, with guarantees that neither the Korean government nor the ICJ will be coming after them, would be enough to get their buy-in. The US and the South Korean government would pay for this, and it would be a lot cheaper than any of the alternatives. The Chinese government would use other means of persuasion.

    3) This solution benefits everyone. China gets continued good relations with a vital trade partner, Korea; China eliminates the threat of American troops being stationed on Chinese borders; China eliminates the risks that the North Koreans pose to China’s security (nuclear proliferation, risk of collapse and a flood of refugees); the US is relieved of the obligation to defend South Korea against North Korean aggression and benefits from peace in North Asia; Koreans benefit from unification and the end of the Kim regime; even Japan benefits for obvious reasons.

    As I said, this would be a win/win.

  • Lorenz Gude

    Douglas Levene for Secretary of State.

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