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China’s Nork Headache


Today is the birthday of Kim Il-sung, traditionally an excuse for North Korea to very publicly flaunt its military might. The national holiday is usually celebrated with an ostentatious parade, but last year also served as an occasion to attempt to launch a rocket into space. The launch was a spectacular failure, but it did add a certain weight to Kim Jong-un’s recent bluster, leading analysts to think he might fire off some short- or medium-range missiles to coincide with his grandfather’s birthday.

Overall, Kim’s over-the-top threats appear to be more ridiculous than frightening on this side of the Pacific, but that is certainly less the case when you’re living right next door to the madman. John Kerry’s remarks in Tokyo this weekend were therefore much appreciated:

“The US will do what is necessary to defend our allies against these provocations, but our choice is to negotiate,” he said after meeting Fumio Kishida, Japan’s foreign minister. […]

Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, on Sunday said the international community “needs to make North Korea understand that the situation will become progressively severe”.

Readers should keep in mind, however, that this latest crisis is as much about China as it is about the Korean peninsula itself. China’s decision to continue to back their unhinged ally in the North is pushing Japan to deepen its security ties with the United States. Having the Kim clan in their back pocket may have seemed like an asset to Chinese strategists in the past, but it’s doing nothing good for them today. Indeed, it’s pretty much playing right into Obama’s pivot strategy.

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  • Lorenz Gude

    I don’t know how the Chinese – the Party or the public regarded the Korean war at first, but I do know that Americans pretty well forgot it and saw it through MacArthur’s lens – “There is no substitute for victory.” Given South Korea’s economic and political progress, I think it has moved into the win column from the US point of view. So one has to wonder how much does China put up with North Korea to save face and pretend that their fighting us to a standstill 60 years ago is still a victory. It seems to me they should make it clear to the NORKS that is their way . (You know ‘socialism with Chinese features’) or the highway. Enough already.

  • Jim Luebke

    I wouldn’t treat their rocketry too lightly. The Pacific is big, but not that big.

    In fact, it would be best to pray that we get missile defense up and running before they can get their aim right.

    That would give us some extra deterrent ability with Iran, too. If we could reliably shoot down any nukes they might develop, the advantage they gain (and thus their motivation) for developing them gets reduced as well.

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