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How North Korea Boosted Obama’s Asia “Pivot” (to China’s Dismay)

China can’t be too pleased with North Korea right now. Because of the Norks, the US military is heavily deployed across the Asia-Pacific, protecting American territory and allies against a North Korean attack but also effectively encircling China. B-2 stealth bombers, radar-evading F-22s, aircraft carriers, and various anti-missile and high altitude defense systems have all been deployed or put at the ready. As this great Reuters analysis piece shows, all this has mostly happened because China’s temperamental ally decided to flex its nuclear muscles.

To be sure, the US military has been present in Asia for decades. But Washington has deployed significantly stronger forces over the past few months. As Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said: “North Korea’s behavior is causing not just the United States, but others in the region to take action.”

President Obama’s pivot to Asia was designed to gradually build up the American military and civilian presence in Asia. That process, especially for the military, has been drastically accelerated because of North Korea. And Beijing, which from the very beginning saw Washington’s pivot as an effort to encircle and contain China, now has to face up to the fact that its sole remaining ally has caused all of its rivals to bulk up their strength across the region.

China’s failure to rein in its rogue ally has become a major strategic liability. North Korea’s provocations do nothing to advance China’s interests or its power, but China pays a high price because of them. China does not yet seem to have found a way to respond.

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  • Stacy Garvey

    I’m wondering if China hasn’t intentional given the Norks a long leash to test American resolve in the region.

  • Atanu Maulik

    With friends like these……..

  • Luke Lea

    Having built out most of their infrastructure in the past couple of decades, China needs new avenues of public investment to keep their people employed and their major state-owned enterprises (steel and shipbuilding especially) humming.

    So maybe these developments play into their hands too? A major expansion of the Chinese navy could be just what the doctor ordered.

  • Greg Olsen

    China’s out is to effect regime change in the DPRK. It preserves the status quo ante. The questions are whether they can really justify taking on the task and what is the response of the other countries in the region as China adds to its empire?

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