Let’s review, shall we?

In June, 2009, I posted a piece that made the following assertions:

Recent comments from China’s Foreign Ministry also make clear the role China has had, and continues to have, as the regional power that enables North Korea to defy the international community, most specifically the United States, in its continued development of an arsenal of long-range nuclear-tipped ICBMs.


The concept of the Thousand Ship Navy, particularly when that “Navy” includes our Chinese “partners”, should once and for all be recognized as foolishly naive.

This today from Bloomberg. Notable in the article are some revealing paragraphs:

May 27 (Bloomberg) — Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is likely to resist pressure to acknowledge that North Korea torpedoed a South Korean warship when he flies to Seoul tomorrow to meet South Korean President Lee Myung Bak and Japan’s Yukio Hatoyama.

China hasn’t followed South Korea, Japan and the U.S. in blaming North Korea for the March 26 sinking of the Cheonan, which killed 46 sailors. Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun yesterday repeated a call for “restraint” by both sides and said China had no “firsthand information” on the sinking.

US Secretary of State Clinton expressed US goals:

“We expect to be working together with China in responding to North Korea’s provocative action and promoting stability in the region,” Clinton said May 25 in Beijing at the conclusion of two days of talks.

But they appear to be radically different from those of the People’s Republic of China:

China’s government may conclude that taking South Korea’s side will only stoke a cycle of escalation, Shen said. China may be willing to condemn the sinking of the Cheonan in a United Nations Security Council resolution provided that North Korea is not singled out for blame, Shen said.

The most interesting quote regarded China’s perception of “interests”:

“China is doing the thing that best suits China’s interests and everyone’s interest,” Shen said. “China is not pushing the envelope either on the North Korean side to be aggressive or on the South Korean to punish North Korea with warfare.”


In the last two decades, as North Korea has grown increasingly bellicose toward her neighbor to the south, and toward the United States, she has done so while protected under the wing of a China grown strong enough militarily and economically to assert herself as the premier power in the region.

Under China’s benevolent protection, Kim Jong Il and his father before him, have done the following:

  • Developed a nuclear capability
  • Tested several weapons in 2006 and 2009
  • Advanced ICBM ranges and capabilities
  • Defied international pressure to desist in those nuclear programs
  • Executed several SOF border incursions into South Korea
  • Supplied arms to Hezbollah and Hamas through their Iranian proxy
  • Shipped (and attempted to ship) likely nuclear and other WMD components to the Middle East
  • Engaged, almost certainly with China’s technical assistance, in a cyber attack against the United States and South Korea
  • Is likely involved heavily in counterfeit and narcotics trades
  • Torpedoed and sank a ROK warship in international waters

What has China’s response been to this long and growing list of bellicose and defiant actions?

Peking has deliberately and unabashedly thwarted each and every opportunity to contain North Korea. The Chinese refused outright to live by UNSC Resolutions 1718 and 1874. China continues her arms sales to Pyongyang, and her large economic (read: financial) aid to Kim’s government.

Today, however, they tell us that they cannot condemn North Korea for an act of war because it will “stoke a cycle of escalation”, and that both sides should show “restraint”. And that China will act in China’s, as well as everyone else’s interests, in the region, as if those were at all compatible.

We must finally recognize China’s true character. I will say it again here. Talk of China’s desires to be a part of the “International Community”, or a reliable member of the Global Maritime Partnership reflects our own inability to perceive China for the complex rival she is; sometimes partner, sometimes economic rival, sometimes military adversary.

Platitudes about Peking wanting to be partners in maintaining stability in Asia are so much diplomatic flattery. As of this moment and in this region, China is unquestionably an adversary. Providing cover and protection for a sworn and aggressive enemy with nascent nuclear capability and little by way of restraint. North Korea is what it is, and does what it does, because China gives it a free hand to do so. If we are going to deal meaningfully with North Korea in defense of our ally in the South, we must acknowledge that fact.

That doesn’t bode well for a National Security Strategy still wet on the page which is said to de-emphasize military power.



People’s Republic of China called for “restraint”. Here is the North Korean Version.

Posted by UltimaRatioReg in Air Force, Army, Aviation, Coast Guard, Foreign Policy, Marine Corps, Maritime Security, Navy, Soft Power

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  • eastriver

    BZ, URR. Only quibble: maybe a 5-600 ship Navy? (Numbers are always fungible.) All in all, not a bad goal to shoot for at very little cost. Some friends will remain our friends.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    I don’t know what the hull count or hi-low mix should be, but I think we are getting acknowledgment of two things (finally) as I read the traffic here and at Phib’s site.

    1. There needs to be more than 287 hulls, more even, than 313. How many more? Depends on who you ask.

    2. We need to put an end to these “tiffany” warships with gargantuan pricetags that have every last gizmo and capability for every last mission stuffed into them (except NGF support, of course).

    Unlike many, I don’t necessarily advocate a bigger acquisition budget across DoD until we start getting more of what we truly need for the dollars we spend. We seem to have melded acquisitions with R&D in the mania for “transformation”. A foolproof way to drive up cost is to mandate the incorporation into building systems that is largely experimental.

    But I think I just threadjacked my own post….

  • Paul

    Agreed that China is acting against US interests and the stability of the region, but it begs the question “What do we do?” Diplomacy, no matter who the Prez is doesn’t seem to yield any good results tangible to the US or South Korea. What should our strategy in dealing with this increasingly real threat consist of in terms of approach and consequence?

    How much leverage do we have in terms of trad? We’re essentially funding China with how much we spend there and they’re keeping us afloat by buying US Treasuries. Plus the artificial low cost of the yen is another financial factor on the economic side.

    What can be revisited to show our displeasure/annoyance with Chinese actions and words that will generate a real response rather than a polite “stick it where the sun don’t shine…”

  • Derrick

    China is a very complicated problem due to the US economy’s inter-connectedness with their economy.

    However, I think the current US response of increasing anti-submarine operations in that area is a very good start.

    Don’t know if this is a good idea or not, but perhaps stopping US companies from outsourcing to China would be a good warning measure, as it would be taking money out of their economy.

    Is there a way China could act economically that may hurt the US economy? What would happen if China stopped buying US treasuries?

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Those are good questions and should be of great concern. The “parable” can be found in the US response to the 1956 Suez crisis. It was American pressure, tied to a massive economic loan, that forced the UK’s hand to withdraw from the Canal zone.

    Once China can do similar, if it cannot already, we are in for high adventure. They will call the shots and we will follow, like it or not.

    There are some caviats, the fragility of the Chinese economic system for one, that are too complex to try and put in a comment box.

    But I would love to hear other opinions on Derrick’s questions. Anyone?

  • harry

    hypocracy, think the Chinese, north korean relations like the israeli and USA relations, where Israeli zionists is allowed to build the world’s biggest open air prison–Gaza and Gaza citizens arnt allowed to retaliate. Where Israelis are allowed to expand its illegal settlements under the protection of USA, and defies international pressure.

    Americans look in the mirrior first before you go about criticiziong others. As one old Chinese saying says:”500 grams and 800 grams, they are all not 1 kg.”

  • doc75

    harry, when South Korea starts sending suicide bombers to North Korea, you will have a point.

  • Derrick

    I don’t think the Koreas will ever get into a military confrontation with each other due to the amount of military forces in that region…any type of stupid action may trigger a major war with enormous casualties.

    Does the US have evidence that the torpedo fired at the South Korean ship was fired under orders from the North Korean government? Or was it fired because the North Korean Captain of the sub that fired the torpedo was insane/idiot?

  • UltimaRatioReg

    “I don’t think the Koreas will ever get into a military confrontation with each other due to the amount of military forces in that region…any type of stupid action may trigger a major war with enormous casualties.”

    Beware those with little to lose, with large enough friends to think they will go unchallenged.