2003 April 15 Tuesday
Chinese Generals Push For More Arms To North Korea

CNN Senior China Analyst Willy Wo-Lap Lam has written an interesting column about Chinese leadership reactions to the war in Iraq. Hardliner generals in China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) are pushing for additional arms to be sent to defend North Korea.

To prevent such weapons from being misused by the Kim Jong Il regime, the PLA officers suggested the hardware be put under Chinese control all the time.

For example, Beijing would send military and technical staff -- including personnel with ethnic-Korean backgrounds -- to man the weapons, which would be taken back to China as soon as the crisis is over.

This sums up Chinese elite sentiment about North Korea. They don't trust the North Korean regime and at the same time they do not want the regime to fall.

Not surprisingly, Lam reports that the PLA is studying the performance of US equipment and will make different weapons development and acquisition decisions based on their findings. Curiously, the Chinese watched the progress of the war in part with their spy satellites. Also, China sent observers to neighboring countries in order to monitor the progress of the war.

Update: Former Reagan Administration Secretary of State George Schultz thinks the US should encourage Japan to build up its military forces as a way to pressure China to pressure North Korea. He also thinks North Korea can't be bought off because it won't honor their agreements.

"We know they violate their agreements," he said. "So their agreements are not worth paying for."

If China responds by providing arms to North Korea then there will be no way to resolve the stand-off with North Korea peacefully. It will be interesting to see how influential the generals of the PLA are in top Chinese leadership circles. Can the civilian leadership ignore them? If the civilians go along with the military pressure to arm North Korea and even send in Chinese nationals to man the weapons then North Korea will see even less reason to refrain from building nuclear weapons as Kim Jong-il will feel protected by China. On one hand China doesn't trust North Korea to operate the weapons on its own. On the other hand, if China sends its own soldiers to operate the weapons then China is taking a much greater responsibilty for North Korea's defense and for North Korea's future behavior. The implications of a Chinese move to strengthen North Korean defenses would be immense.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 April 15 10:11 AM  Politics Grand Strategy

Paul Nelson said at April 16, 2003 7:10 AM:

I don't think the Chinese military leaders and political leaders
are working from the same script for North Korea. To a certain
extent, this is probably a byproduct of the prolonged and somewhat
unresolved leadership transition in China. However, in general,
the military also seems to be adopting a more confrontational
stance on many issues these days. If the civilians can't rein in
the PLA, North Korea will just be the first of many future conflicts.

Patrick said at April 16, 2003 6:22 PM:

Of course another way to look at it is that with sufficient armed Chinese troops in North Korea, it stops being an independent country and becomes another "Special administative area".

In effect, a Chinese takeover.

Would this be a bad thing? Who would you rather have a land border with, a Special Region of China, or North Korea?

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