Is China Sincere?

The Chinese authorities, contrary to the predictions of many, are saying precisely what I told you they would say in reaction to the Kim regime’s threats against the United States. The Washington Post reports:

BEIJING — China won’t come to North Korea’s help if it launches missiles threatening U.S. soil and there is retaliation, a state-owned newspaper warned on Friday, but it would intervene if Washington strikes first.

The Global Times newspaper is not an official mouthpiece of the Communist Party, but in this case its editorial probably does reflect government policy and can be considered “semiofficial,” experts said.

China has repeatedly warned both Washington and Pyongyang not to do anything that raises tensions or causes instability on the Korean Peninsula, and strongly reiterated that suggestion Friday.

or, in other words, the Chinese would defend the North Koreans if the U. S. attacked North Korea but the North Koreans are on their own if they attack the United States.

The question is whether the Chinese authorities are sincere or whether they would inevitably be drawn into a conflict between the North Koreans and the U. S. in any event. I think they’re sincere.

8 comments… add one
  • Guarneri

    It creates a problem, though, if China is not willing to step in and force arrestment of further development of NKorea’s capabilities, in particular development of an accurate US targeting missile. Otherwise, China’s admonition is just air cover for NK until that capability matures.

    It seems that prior administration’s strategy was based simply on hope, the hope that the capability wouldn’t become reality under their watch. After all, dealing with it is icky. And yet now here we are. Should we follow the advice of that great Churchillian statesman, Susan Rice?

  • Andy

    It’s not an advisable position IMO, but if we wanted to get more of China’s skin in the game, we could make it policy that any attack by North Korea on the US or its allies would be considered an attack by China as well.

  • CuriousOnlooker

    Speculation here — but the Chinese are sincere, and they will only intervene if the whole Kim family was out of power, or the Chinese could be sure of Kim’s compliance (like they had hostages).

    What I don’t get is what Kim thinks he gets out of this. Nuclear weapons are good for deterrence, but they have never worked (and probably never will) as blackmail.

  • That’s how I see it, too, CuriousOnlooker. I also don’t think the Chinese would be particularly upset if someone quietly shoved a knife into Kim’s back as long as North Korea could be relied on to remain separate from the South.

    I can only speculate that Kim genuinely thinks that he has a much stronger hand than he actually does and is planning to wring concessions including oil and DVDs out of the South Koreans and American using their fear of his nuclear arsenal as leverage. If that’s actually the case he’s more likely than not to use his nuclear weapons.

  • Andy

    “What I don’t get is what Kim thinks he gets out of this.”

    It’s all about regime survival. This is tells us a lot about the North Korea/China relationship. North Korea clearly believes that China will not guarantee the survival of the regime or else they wouldn’t pursue their own nuclear capability at great financial and political cost.

  • I don’t think that Kim really appreciates U. S. military power. The honest truth is that it’s within our capabilities to cause North Korea to cease to exist over a period of less than an hour. He’s gambling that we won’t. He may be right but I think it’s a fool’s game.

  • gray shambler

    What’s the half-life of family dictatorships? Eventually you get to one that’s high on himself, with delusions of grandeur, overconfident. One way or another this regime will fall. Nothing Trump has or will say can influence it. We can only be vigilant and quickly counter any attack, an attack I’m thinking is inevitable, given Kim’s delusions.

  • We can only be vigilant and quickly counter any attack, an attack I’m thinking is inevitable, given Kim’s delusions.

    That’s exactly the way I see it.

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