2003 August 04 Monday
China Feels Forced To Apply Pressure To North Korea

North Korea has agreed to multilateral talks.

SEOUL, South Korea North Korea said Friday that it has agreed to multilateral talks on its suspected development of nuclear weapons but will push for one-on-one talks with the United States during the proposed negotiations.

Stephen Blank says China is leaning on North Korea.

On repeated occasions Chinese spokesmen have publicly and clearly warned their US interlocutors that under no circumstances would the United States be allowed unilaterally to decide the fate of the Korean Peninsula. China will not be passive or quiet and thus will act, quite strongly if necessary, to safeguard its interests and equities in Korea. That warning could easily signify a willingness to use force either against the Americans or, as some China specialists have warned, against North Korea's territory to prevent Washington from fashioning a unilateral solution that would place its troops on or close to China's border. Since this war could easily become a nuclear one and the Korean War itself was a sufficiently horrible experience for all concerned, these are hardly easily acceptable options. Yet if North Korea is metaphorically tied to China, its decision to go over the cliff inevitably drags China along with it, something Beijing is naturally reluctant to accept. Therefore Beijing is exerting every effort to persuade Pyongyang to enter into genuine negotiations with Washington before its nuclearization becomes an issue to be settled exclusively by the deployment of troops.

But as CNN Senior China Analyst Willy Wo-Lap Lam points out, China has maintained all along that it could not pressure North Korea as long as the US was improving its military capability in the neighborhood.

A commentary in the official China News Service on Tuesday said Washington's recent deployment of high-tech, rapid-response units in South Korea was an effort to "put more military pressure on North Korea." The Chinese leadership has all along indicated it can only exert pressure on North Korea if the U.S. were to de-escalate military preparations against the Kim regime.

The Chinese were posturing. The determination of the Bush Administration to maintain a hardline stance against North Korea - the very position that the Chinese maintained was counterproductive - forced the Chinese to decide they had to start leaning on North Korea. The US and its allies can not put enough pressure on North Korea to force the Pyongyang regime to cry uncle as long as China continues to support North Korea. The game is really between the US and China. Can the Bush Administration convince the Chinese that the US will take really radical steps if the Chinese do not intervene? That is what this game is about at this point.

Update: In my view, the only effective way to pressure the Chinese to cut off aid to North Korea would be to make full scale preparations for war against North Korea. A big air power build-up, carrier deployments, and deployments of Army and Marine divisions would make it clear to the Chinese that either they deal with the problem or we deal with the problem.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 August 04 12:15 AM  Korea

John Moore (Useful Fools) said at August 4, 2003 9:14 PM:

Well said - especially your update.

China is playing a very dangerous game, not only with North Korea, but also with Iran and Pakistan. They have supplied nuclear information and capability to all of these countries. Stepping back, this looks like the behavior of a cold war opponent, which is what is really going on between the US and China. Except in this case the proxy wars may end up being fought on our soil, with weapons of mass destruction, which could quickly escalate into a thermonuclear exchange between the US and China.

This is probably why China is rapidly building up its deterrent ICBM force, especially with mobile missiles. They want to be able to deter us if their proxies start inflicting disastrous attacks upon us. Furthermore, with the exception of North Korea, they do not have control of these proxies - these are not satellites in the Soviet sense.

At the same time, the Chinese have commercial interests that would be sigificantly hurt by major damage to the U.S., and furthermore they are vulnerable to trade sanctions by the US, or even outright blockade. Economic attacks against China would threaten the stability of the system, which is anathema to the ruling nomenklatura.

This is a really complex situation, and I fear the rather fragmented and messy Chinese policy apparatus may not be acting rationally.

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