Wed, Jun 21, 2017 - Page 8 News List

US deceiving itself on North Korea

By Kengchi Goah 吳耿志

Illusion is defined as a subconscious self-serving desire thought to be unrealizable when assessed with a cool head.

The expectation, openly expressed or earnestly implied, of the US administration for China’s influence on North Korea falls into the category of such a mindset.

Ample reasons argue against China’s willingness to extend a helping hand.

North Korea’s Kim family is a brutal, authoritarian ruling clique that listens to no one and does not care a bit about hurting its populace.

Any sanctions China launches will certainly squeeze the people of North Korea, but simply will not register with [North Korean leader] Kim [Jong-un].

North Korea’s military is a privileged interest cohort. Members of the military and Kim’s inner circle know too well their mutual dependence and would never allow any external influence a chance to break it.

The Yalu River, the demarcation separating China and North Korea, is a small body of water offering almost no natural defense. China definitely does not want to have a democratic neighbor just across the river.

Over the past seven decades, North Korea has provided a buffer zone shielding China’s northeastern flank. Beijing absolutely has no desire to see such a cushion disappear.

In addition to taking advantage of the shock absorber effect North Korea provides, Beijing has remained acquiescent to North Korea’s proxy role in fanning regional conflicts and proliferating nuclear weapons. By unleashing North Korea’s troublemaking indirectly, China intends to stretch the US military thin, but avoid direct confrontation.

Cuddling North Korea like a bulldog, Beijing also makes Japan unable to sleep well. China knows well its age-old tactics: Killing two, or multiple, birds with one stone.

By tying up two carrier groups in the East China Sea with North Korea’s provocative missile tests, China intends to deny the US’ ability to intervene in the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea.

Quite often, Beijing reminds Kim that Seoul — a metropolis of millions a short 48km from the 38th parallel — is well within North Korea’s massive artillery salvo. A suicidal destruction of such a scale is sure to make decisionmakers in Washington extremely hesitant.

Washington can press Beijing, but Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) sees US President Donald Trump with few cards.

Kengchi Goah is a senior research fellow at the Taiwan Public Policy Council in the US.

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