The words today from China regarding North Korea’s act of war should come as a surprise to nobody. Anyone watching with an objective eye could see the direction in which appeals for condemnation from The People’s Republic of China were heading.

Sure, there was some speculation on the “delicate” position China was put in by North Korea’s actions. How North Korea threatened “regional stability” and “economic prosperity”, both of which were China’s REAL interests. How China could not “read the Pyongyang tea leaves”, and was as in the dark as the West regarding Kim Jong-Il’s intentions, or that of his designated successor, Kim Jong -Un. How the threat of “masses of North Korean refugees” streaming across the North Korea-China border would spur China to action.

Believe none of it.

Red China is a master of power politics, a game most of the West, America included, seems not only to have lost any taste for, but of late all but refuses to admit exists in the international realm. President Obama yesterday used strong words to condemn the actions of the North Koreans, and pledged US support for South Korea against any aggression from the North. He also appealed strongly to China to keep their renegade neighbors to the south reigned in. So far, as in each and every other instance of the last decade, including the sinking of a ROK Navy frigate this past Spring (with the loss of 46 sailors), China’s response has not substantively altered. Once again, intransigence regarding their North Korean allies.

This, from Bloomberg:

President Barack Obama’s call for China to put more pressure on North Korea to stop military attacks on South Korea may go unheeded in Beijing, where officials refuse to pin any blame on their ally, analysts say.

Obama, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan and South Korean President Lee Myung Bak called for China to use its influence to control North Korea’s behavior, following yesterday’s deadly artillery salvo. Four people were killed and 20 wounded, mostly soldiers, when Northern forces shelled the island of Yeonpyeong in the first attack of its kind since the 1950-1953 civil war.

“China thinks the most important and urgent goal right now is to make sure there won’t be any escalation of the conflict, rather than finding out who’s responsible,” said Yang Xiyu, a researcher at the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing, a group attached to China’s foreign ministry.

The statement, particularly the insistence on limiting escalation rather than “finding who’s responsible”, is almost verbatim what was said at the time of the North Korean torpedoing of the ROK frigate Cheonan. (This, after our Secretary of State presented indisputable proof to Chinese leadership, a major thumb in the eye of US policy makers.)

As has been said often before, North Korea is as China allows and encourages North Korea to be. Rationalization otherwise is foolish, and reflects a dangerously naive optimism that The People’s Republic of China feels compelled to follow the same rules as does the United States and her allies when executing her diplomacy. It is worth stating again:

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, killing 46 ROK sailors
  • Fired artillery into South Korean territory without provocation, killing four ROK service members and wounding two dozen civilians

China deliberately thwarted the enforcement of UNSC 1718 and 1874, effectively removing any meaningful teeth from what might have been significant international action. Elsewhere, China has become increasingly bellicose, leveraging herself into advantage across the spectrum of diplomatic actions. China’s aggressive stance on the Spratley Islands dispute has alarmed her neighbors and Western leaders. The PLA Navy is expanding, with shipbuilding capability expanding even faster. China has posited, and then begun perfecting, cyber disruption of US economic, military, and critical infrastructure networks. China continues to leverage US debt to economic advantage. China is securing world energy sources in Iran, Africa, Indonesia, and elsewhere for her consumption alone, to the exclusion of other nations.

The time has long since come to recognize at the highest military and civilian levels of leadership in the United States that China is very far from being a benevolent ally, and even farther from sharing any kind of common interests or vision of either Asia and the Pacific Rim, or any other geographic region where they perceive their interests to lie.

Statements from the Pentagon over the recent exchange of artillery fire are that “nobody wants a war”, or words expressing similar sentiment. But someone certainly seems to desire war. The firing of aimed artillery for more than an hour at military and civilian targets inside another country is not an accident. Whether China is directly involved or is a highly interested benefactor of a proxy North Korea is immaterial. Be he agent, or be he principle, Ahab tells us. If we recall what Clausewitz stated two centuries ago, that war is a continuation of politics, with an admixture of other means, then perhaps we may well perceive China’s actions and inaction vis a vis North Korea as some of those other means. China could resolve the situation with North Korea very quickly. They choose not to. They understand that a North Korea as a thorn in the side of the US is in their interest. Whether we quite understand that or not.

As the Western Allies must have realized to their horror and shame in the Summer of 1939, when Hitler’s words toward Poland turned ever more harsh and confrontational, war comes whether you want it or not, and whether you are ready for it or not.

We had better be ready.

(H/T to Lex for the Cheonan damage link.)

Posted by UltimaRatioReg in Air Force, Army, Aviation, Coast Guard, Foreign Policy, From our Archive, History, Homeland Security, Marine Corps, Maritime Security, Navy

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  • Derrick

    China’s continual subtle snubs of our protests over North Korea’s actions are starting to get very irritating. Time to start playing hardball and consider ordering the closing down of the Microsoft, IBM, EMC, other US companies in China and bringing those jobs back to the US.

  • Charley

    Red China. Haven’t heard that moniker for the PRC lately. Is the PRC dangerous because it is a communist state, or because it wants to influence (intimidate, imo) its Asian neighbors?

    The PRC and the North Koreans have a long history together, starting prior to the Korean conflict. More than 50K North Korean troops fought with the PLA against the Nationalist Chinese in the Chinese Civil War. The NK assistance was vital to creating the communist state, and the PRC doesn’t seem to have forgotten their assistance (and its humiliation by the hands of the West.)

    Does anyone find it ironic that the USS Jimmy Carter is bottling up the NK subs while Jimmy Carter is talking negotiations?

  • UltimaRatioReg


    I used “Red China” deliberately. They still are a Communist government, even with an increasingly capitalist economy. The Party is the only real permissible social and political organization.

    “Does anyone find it ironic that the USS Jimmy Carter is bottling up the NK subs while Jimmy Carter is talking negotiations?”

    Maybe it is because it is late, but yes, that is ironic. And not a little funny.

  • John Smith

    The naivety of this essay is obvious from the get-go when the author exhumes “Red China” from the cliche grave. To pretend that “The Party” is some kind of political monolith that controls all actors in the Chinese body politic is ignorant at best, deliberately misleading at worst.

    And if you’re going to pretend to Clausewitzian realpolitik, then you must begin by actually practicing what you preach. So, to give just a single example from the article, Clausewitz would see no difference between “China’s aggressive stance on the Spratley Islands” and “The USA’s aggressive stance on Antarctica”. Both are ludicrous geography-free naked territorial grabs for imagined future resources riches. Actually that’s not strictly accurate. China’s Spratley claims are in fact far more reasonable.

    Changing the status-quo on the Korean peninsula benefits *who* exactly? The current set-up gives both the USA and China all the geopolitical deniability they both need to “allow” a huge number of US troops what would in any other situation be “uncomfortably” close to China. Both sides benefit in numerous ways from this.

    These simple facts are things one really wishes more people — including bloggers purporting to represent in some way the US Navy — would understand.

  • I vented yesterday over at Information Dissemination, then found my center. Chinese leaders, it is said, only respect those who defend stand up for their interests, so some of our famous toughness is called for. However, the East is subtle, and the “Ugly American” is, sadly, a real albatross around our necks going back to the Boxer Rebellion and forward to the idiotic “vice-royalty” of Brenner.

    The biggest quiet naval news this year so far, IMHO, was our response to the botched July 4 DF-21D test. A week after that test, the SSGNs Ohio, Michigan and Florida surfaced w/o warning in Diego Garcia and Subic Bay. Nothing was said officially by either the US or China, but Beijing’s rhetoric cooled considerably thereafter and port visits were again invited. The Jimmy Carter carries more weight than the George Washington, when it comes down to real influence.

  • Derrick

    I thought China’s system is more capitalist than communist. They have no labour unions, and if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. Plus people doing manual labour/manufacturing jobs are paid low…while those in white collar jobs get paid much more. Plus China has no social benefits system like social security, medicare, or welfare…

    As for the Jimmy Carter bottling up NK subs during negotiations…well…President Carter isn’t going to have much negotiating power unless the US military (and economy) backs him up.

    I find that President Obama is not using all the bargaining chips at his disposal. I’m glad he’s using the military but the real negotiating power comes in all the economic investment the US has in China, plus the interest on the US debt we pay them. If China still supports North Korea, I say we stop paying interest on the debt owed to China.

  • SwitchBlade

    I have said for YEARS, and repeat here – the US government should remove the phrase “North Korea” from its vocabulary and refer all mentions of it by others to China. As made clear by China’s statements, they are only interested in preventing “escalation” of what ever happens – that is until the next escalation by their province of NK. Obviously, the solution is to let them know they have gone too far by ESCALATING!

    Publicly state that medium range nuclear missiles will be provided to Japan at THEIR request. State that medium range nuclear missiles will be stationed in South Korea at their request. At the next attack on South Korea (since they have let this opportunity pass) respond with 10 tomahawk missiles (or the appropriate number to be a little bit of a raising of the ante) at preselected military targets in the province of NK.

    Of course none of this will happen because its too provocative and the current administration has no interest in foreign problems while their still trying to save us all from our own incompetence.

  • Derrick

    Even if you take out NK military targets with cruise missiles, they can always rebuild. They don’t seem to mind starving their people in order to build useless nuclear facilities. A 1-off air strike will just delay the issue, not resolve it.

    If there is to be US escalation, I would suggest first a condemnation in the UN, and to get as many nations onboard as possible in condemning NK.

    Then isolate NK. Probably need to jam Chinese satellite transmissions as well as do cyber attacks (denial of service, mass pinging, uploading of viruses) to infect NK’s telecommunications. (As well as to prevent NK from “accidentally” receiving data from China) Meanwhile build up US forces on South Korea as well as Japan. When ready, will probably need to explode a nuclear device in space to create an EMP to knock out NK’s electronics, then begin an air campaign similar to Desert Storm, plus an amphibious landing near the border of NK and China to prevent assistance/re-supplies to NK during the operation. Then send in the ground troops.

    This way the US can hunt at its leisure for the nuclear facilities and WMDs the North Koreans must be hiding.

    Expensive…but the only way to guarantee the dismantling of all nuclear weapons facilities being constructed in NK.

    The cheaper way would be to tell China if they do not stop supporting NK, US stops allowing its companies from outsourcing to China. And we may skip a few interest payments on the US debt we owe them too. 😉

  • Jay

    Wow! Switchblade and Derrick – you win a tie for most irrational comments of 2010. I doubt anyone will top them in Dec. I hope not…

  • Byron

    I am deeply disappointed in all the people joined in this little give and take that not ONE of them has taken the time or effort to respond to Capt. Martin’s Thanksgiving wishes. They are on the lines in our stead and the best you can do is take feeble shots at each other. Get in gear, people and get your priorities straight!

  • UltimaRatioReg

    John Smith,

    “The Party is some kind of political monolith that controls all actors in the Chinese body politic” would be precisely the way several imprisoned Chinese dissidents would describe “The Party”. And how a great number of China analysts see the Party’s place, as well.

    To posit that an aggressive and warlike North Korea somehow provides the United States the “benefit” of funding and equipping just 28,000 troops “uncomfortably close” to China is to display such a skewed understanding of strategic advantage as to call into question those “fundamentals” you seem to think any rational thinker on international affairs should understand.

    If you do NOT think that North Korea’s benefactor is the PRC, and that China has not been directly involved with North Korea’s actions as stated above, please make your case.

  • Derrick

    Why are my posts irrational? I’m just looking at several options…

  • Paul

    I saw an article the yesterday that analyzed the whole process and it came down to a couple of points:

    North Korea benefits from being crazy. They’ve negotiated with both Democratic and Republican governments and haven’t kept one promise. The continual threat of war from the US and South Korea helps the leaders keep everyone in line through fear.

    Attacking plays right into that fear and anger. Besides, what really would an attack accomplish? They think nothing of slaughtering their people wholesale.

    China is the real player here, but no one on either side of the aisle has the chops to start condemning with any real teeth the main supplier of our economic engine. Check your closet, or the toys you buy for Xmas? Where are they made? I’ll be not the USA. Before anything can happen with NK, China, as mentioned above, needs to feel the need to engage through some kine of power. Words are just words, promises are just promises, but some kind of economic threat with teeth might get them to take a more active role in the process.

  • harry

    North Korea is our israel, enough said.

  • SwitchBlade

    Irrational – I don’t think so. The point being, and as made by others, until China believes it has an interest in stopping NK’s actions, they will not stop. Anything that doesn’t involve escalation won’t have any affect on the situation what-so-ever! To China, talk is perfectly acceptable with them.

    As for my recommendations being irrational – I’ve heard every recommendation, except a Tomahawk strike, stated by pundits in the national media. So I can’t be too far out of the box. Would a Tomahawk strike do any real damage – as Derrick states the obvious -no, but it does “take the the fight to them” something that hasn’t been done to this point. Sink a few naval vessels, blow up some dry docks etc. and they will notice it.

    NK sinks a SK ship and the consequences are talk; shell an island, more talk. ALL of you talkers should quit – NK couldn’t care less what you, the US, Japan, SK or the UN have to say. The only one with an opinion that will influence them is China. And China doesn’t care to change their behavior.

    As for Derrick’s escalating, I doubt any electronic “attack” on NK will have any effect since there is very little electronics to attack. Have you ever looked at a satellite photo of NK at night? If you do – NK is that dark spot between SK and China!

  • Derrick

    LOL! Let’s just say that some people are in favour of using the Reagan approach: peace through strength. 🙂

  • Jay

    I would prefer talk, and diplomacy, keeping the lead here. I would rather see The NK state implode, or a gradual process of reunification, than another large scale shooting war. Too idealistic? Nope, not so long ago that the former Soviets and Warsaw Pact were seen as implacable. So escalation isn’t a smart move here, at least for now. We may not be able to dissuade the South Koreans from acting, if the North continues to press.

    I am not convinced that the relationship between China and NK is the same today as it was 2-3 decades ago.

    We may see more clarity the rest of this month and next.

  • Matt Yankee

    So let’s just hope they don’t sell a nuke to Hezbollah or AQ…just sit on your butt and keep hoping for them to leave you alone…great plan. Did the Soviets ever directly shell us or our allies? Comparing the Soviets to North Korea is wishful thinking.

    Our enemies are aware of our wishful thinking and this leads them to do things like shell us because they know we will keep on wishing them away. The wishful thinkers continue to avoid the subject of N.K.’s proliferation…not one mention of the gorilla in the room.

    “I am not convinced that the relationship between China and NK is the same today as it was 2-3 decades ago.”

    Why would any fair minded country enable a lunatic to obtain nukes? Their actions after the Cheonan sinking spoke volumes. The trade btw. them jumped 25% after the attack!

  • Matt Yankee

    Interesting information out on China’s position via traitor wiki leaks.

    China supposedly told ROK they would allow ROK control over all of Korea…

    Actions speak louder…they allowed the North to send medium range ballistic missiles to IRAN via Beijing. Despite specific US requests for them to stop the transactions. Happened repeatedly. Now Iran has over 20 missiles capable of reaching Western European capitals including Berlin.

    Gen. MacArthur would not believe his men were fighting Chinese. It would be insane to repeat the same mistake.

  • Jay

    Ummm… so wilileaks shows that China may not be in cahoots & pulling the strings with the North Koreans on every action/issue? Interesting…

  • UltimaRatioReg


    Words, words, words.

    While they were saying those things they were deliberately subverting UNSC Resolutions 1718 and 1874, allowing NK missiles to pass through Chinese ports, helping NK with a cyber attack, and lending nuclear technology know-how to the North Korean fissile material refinement efforts.

  • Matt Yankee

    Also after the Cheonan sucker punch the Chinese decided it was time to stage exercises in the Yellow Sea to deter the US. Why would they be trying to deter the US if they weren’t interested in backing the North? Why would the Chinese be so focused on countering US military if they weren’t interested in making a change at some point? They are certainly not worried about Taiwan invading China.

    Wouldn’t it be important for the Chinese to mislead us about their intentions so that we wouldn’t be trying to neutralize them at the opening stages of conflict? The Chinese certainly succeeded in surprising Gen. MacArthur and this won them a truce instead of defeat. Would there have been a North Korea if MacArthur was prepared for a Chinese intervention…? I think he would’ve been ready to destroy them on their side of the Yalu but he was totally surprised and the rest is history.

  • Retired Now

    Oh, come on now ! Just have South Korea reach into their proverbial Cookie Jar, and then just BUY all of North Korea, once and for all. Offer wealth and prosperity showered upon their once-fellow countrymen, vice playing into their Leaders’ hands and think about war/fighting.

    Reunite the 2 countries, peacefully. Time for the Leaders in South Korea, to continue swallowing their pride, turn the other cheek for the 490-th time, and make a spectacularly generous re-unification offer to the people being mistreated in the North. Bet it would work ! Quite easily, too.

  • UltimaRatioRegis


    Don’t underestimate the effects of six decades of brainwashing on the North Korean people. Simply offering prosperity has been overtly and subtly on the table for thirty five years. It has had little observable effect.

  • Matt Yankee

    Retired Hippy,

    “make a spectacularly generous re-unification offer to THE PEOPLE being mistreated in the North”

    That is funny! Like there is no dictator in charge at all…sounds like the missionary guy that tried to go “show them the way” and ended up getting tortured to the point he attempted suicide. Good people but totally and dangerously wrong.

  • Matt Yankee

    More Wiki leaking:

    China attempted to bribe Kyrgyzstan (for $3 BILLION) into kicking the US off our Manas military base (primary US base for the Afghan War). Most US military personnel are moved through this base going into and out of Afghanistan.

    How surprising…but I’m sure they would be just fine with US/ROK presence right up to the Yalu River…