China Will Not Help To “Punish” North Korea
This “news analysis” on North Korea’s latest nuke test in the New York Times is rather a lightly disguised threat to China. Starve North Korea or we will disable your strategic nuclear deterrence.
BEIJING — The nuclear test by North Korea on Tuesday, in defiance of warnings by China, leaves the new Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, with a choice: Does he upset North Korea just a bit by agreeing to stepped up United Nations sanctions, or does he rattle the regime by pulling the plug on infusions of Chinese oil and investments that keep North Korea afloat?
Notice how this sets up a rather infantile false choice. China could also just ignore the test and do nothing. China could also chose to do some other stuff. It could embrace North Korea by delivering more energy to it. It could ensure North Korea that it would defend it with all its might should there be any attack on it thereby rendering the North Korean nuclear program unnecessary. There are many possibilities besides punish small and punish big.
The piece continues by framing this as a China U.S. relation issue:
To improve the strained relationship with the United States, Mr. Xi could start with getting tougher on North Korea, harnessing China’s clout with the outlier government to help slow down its nuclear program. If Mr. Xi does not help in curbing the North Koreans, he will almost certainly face accelerated ballistic missile defense efforts by the United States in Northeast Asia, especially with Japan, an unpalatable situation for China.
U.S. missile defense is being build to render Russia’s and China’s nuclear deterrence useless. The hope is that it will enable first-strike capability. The U.S. could kill off most of Russia’s or China’s nukes while having some reasonable hope that its missile defense system will be capable of holding of a much diminished retaliation strike.
No one in China believes that the U.S. will ever stop its missile defense plans in Asia. It is obviously part of Washington’s program to contain China. But just imagine China would really agree to some serious pressure on North Korea while the U.S. would offer a promise or even a treaty that it will not build up its missile defense.
How long would such a promise hold?
The U.S. promised to North Korea to build it two reactors for electricity production should North Korea end its Plutonium program. North Korea did end its Pu program but those reactors were never built.
China knows better than to believe that treaties the U.S. signs will not be broken. It has its own experience. The current hustle with Japan about the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands is just one broken treaty example:
The Potsdam Declaration (Declaration Defining Terms for Japanese Surrender) of 1945 set the terms of Japan’s unconditional surrender. It was issued jointly by the Allied powers – the US, Britain, and China (the Nationalist or Kuomintang government); and the Soviet Union later “adhered to” the declaration. The Japanese government explicitly accepted it. The declaration said that Japan should retain no overseas territories.
A later conference issued the Treaty of San Francisco in 1951, to mark the final settlement of the war in East Asia and the official end of the Allied (American) Occupation of Japan. The US excluded China from the conference, which by then was governed by the Chinese Communist Party. (The US also excluded the Nationalist government, then resident in Taiwan but still claiming to rule the mainland.) The treaty allocated to Japan hundreds of islands south of Japan, comprising the whole of Okinawa prefecture, including the Senkaku.
In China’s eyes the Treaty of San Francisco and its restoration of offshore islands to Japan is invalid, because (1) it broke the Potsdam Declaration – the foundation of the post-war order in East Asia — and (2) it resulted from a negotiation in which the government of China (one of the four Allied Powers) was not represented. None of the overseas territories seized by Imperial Japan, including the Senkaku, should have been restored to Japan.
China needs North Korea as a buffer against U.S. troops at its borders. It will not do anything to ruin North Korea as a chaotic and dissolving neighbor would be a huge security problem for Beijing. Some slower build up of U.S. missile defense would not solve that problem.
China will probably agree to some mild sanctions on North Korea. An even better strategy would be for the U.S. to come to its senses and to make finally peace with North Korea thereby making its nuclear capabilities unnecessary. China should and could support that by giving security guarantees.
This article was originally posted at Moon Of Alabama