In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee yesterday, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta left little doubt as to whether the People’s Republic of China was assisting North Korea with their ballistic missile program. From the Reuters article:

“I’m sure there’s been some help coming from China. I don’t know, you know, the exact extent of that,” Panetta told members of the House Armed Services Committee when asked whether China had been supporting North Korea’s missile program through “trade and technology exchanges.”

While understandably unable to delve into details due to “sensitivity”, Secretary Panetta gave voice to the deep suspicions many have had since the beginning of China’s rise twenty years ago. It should be clear for all to see that China gains advantage by having a belligerent and nuclear-capable North Korea as a major thorn in the side of the United States in precisely the region that is the future focus of US Defense strategy, the Western Pacific.

The People’s Republic of China has consistently thwarted the efforts of the US and her allies to bring the DPRK under control China refused to condemn North Korea for the sinking of the ROK frigate Cheonan, which killed 46 ROK sailors. Nor did China offer any meaningful criticism for the shelling of Yeongpyong Island, which resulted in the deaths of two ROK Marines, other than an admonition not to “escalate”. When taken with the Chinese watering-down of UNSC sanctions against North Korea, continued military assistance, collaboration with DPRK in cyber attack efforts, ambivalence toward DPRK weapons and technology proliferation into the Middle East, and a blind eye to provocative border and SOF incursions into South Korea, these actions are indicators of China’s tacit approval of North Korea’s actions and posture.

There have been many who have sounded the warning klaxon. The issue has been addressed here, and the December 2011 Proceedings “Now Hear This” article by Defense analyst Joseph Bosco.

While China’s role in keeping the North Korean regime in power—and in the WMD business—is indisputable, analysts have offered unconvincing explanations of Chinese motives. U.S. experts have assured us that China shares our nuclear concerns but fears instability on the Korean peninsula. They accept China’s argument that even threatening to cut economic aid would collapse Kim Jong Il’s regime and trigger a refugee flow into China. But it has been clear for 60 years that the sole cause of instability between the Koreas has been Pyongyang’s own bizarre and dangerous behavior, despite substantial aid and concessions from accommodating South Korean governments. Yet China stands by its ally.

Indeed. Despite the consistent platitudes from Chinese diplomats and military officials of their willingness to be of assistance in “managing” North Korea, the reality is that China has very successfully played power politics in developing and maintaining North Korea’s military capabilities and belligerent posture. Chinese assistance to North Korea in developing a ballistic missile capability to carry a nuclear warhead well beyond the Korean peninsula is not a shocking aberration, but another in a long and consistent series of actions that cannot point reasonably to any other conclusion. North Korea will try again with the missile launch. And with Chinese assistance, they will eventually succeed.

The assertions to the contrary grow equally foolish-sounding, and detached from reality. One, in a rebuttal to the Bosco article, was that “The prospect of a better outcome lies not in blaming China but in working imaginatively with China and others to transform North Korea under new leadership”. Don’t you believe it. China has proven for decades they are more than willing to live with their recalcitrant southern neighbors, and the only “transformation” that Chinese leadership is interested in is making North Korea a more potent threat to the United States and its Western Pacific allies.

As has been said before, 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. And this includes China’s subsidizing of the brutal, aggressive, repressive regime in North Korea.


As if on cue, DPRK ratchets up the rhetoric. And this telling summation from MSNBC:

In Beijing, North Korea’s biggest ally, China’s top foreign policy official met Sunday with a North Korean delegation and expressed confidence in the country’s new young leader, Kim Jong Un.


Seems the nuclear DPRK is no longer a hypothetical, if US estimates are correct. Which magnifies every last occurrence of Red China’s assistance to the Hermit Kingdom.

While below some comments express abhorrence of the spectre of a nuclear exchange, it is highly useful to remember that the People’s Republic of China and by proxy, her ally North Korea, do not necessarily share that view. I would caution the use of the term “well-reasoned” when framing the Korean peninsula in terms of American values and viewpoints. Which brings the argument back to that of being strong and capable enough with our conventional and nuclear arsenal to deter both countries from precisely the bellicosity that one has repeatedly threatened and the other has excused and minimized.


Posted by UltimaRatioReg in Air Force, Army, Books, Foreign Policy, Hard Power, History, Homeland Security, Marine Corps, Maritime Security, Naval Institute, Navy, Proceedings

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  • Diogenes of NJ

    Let’s not be too quick to jump to conclusions about China’s role in all of this. Perhaps the DPRK picked up that transporter, erector, launcher (TEL) at CarSense.

    I bet they even have a receipt for it that they’d be willing to show Hillary or the UN (it might be hard to read since they write funny – but if you turn it sideways…)

    Speaking of the UN, I’m still holding a grudge against China for streaming into Korea across the Yalu River, and that little dust up at the Chosin Reservoir (that ain’t over you know).

    So when it comes to “working imaginatively with China and others to transform North Korea”, here’s what I’m imagining: a smoking radioactive cinder that extends from the DMZ to the border of Siberia and west to the Gobi Desert (so sorry for the collateral damage Hop Sing).

    At one time they were afraid of the B-36. What are they afraid of now? It isn’t the LCS, because even the Swiss Navy isn’t afraid of that.

    – Kyon

  • Matt

    Excellent post!

    Diogenes of NJ is right on. MacArthur should’ve been allowed to defeat China.

  • Derrick

    Just stop importing Chinese made goods. This will force China to come to the negotiation table and pressure North Korea into stopping its nuclear program.

    But be prepared to pay more at Walmart. 😉

    What is the range of that missile North Korea is trying to field? Can it even hit Hawaii?

  • Benjamin Walthrop

    “So when it comes to “working imaginatively with China and others to transform North Korea”, here’s what I’m imagining: a smoking radioactive cinder that extends from the DMZ to the border of Siberia and west to the Gobi Desert (so sorry for the collateral damage Hop Sing).”

    I am left to assume that this kind of bombastic rhetoric is a joke, and not a very funny one if that’s the case.

    That said, I’m not going to let that kind of loose talk go unanswered, especially because it seems another regular reader of USNI seems to agree. So….

    I’ve seen the results of that sort of irrational jingoistic fear up close and personal. To call for the extermination of 3 billion people based on the fear of some future competition is immoral at best. The expression of such desires is protected (as it should be), but any actions along those lines and in that scale would be a catastrophe to humanity.

    A search of the interwebs for Yosuke Yamahata and his pictorial work in 1945 should be enough to convince any sentient human that this action is not the preferred path for the sake of humanity.

    Back to the original post…I for one don’t believe that the PTB have really embraced China as a “benevolent ally” in Asia, but they have taken the realpolitik position that we’re better off cooperating on areas of mutual interest. Do the Chinese bear watching? Certainly. That said, there were some folks willing to try to face down armor armed with nothing more than a T-shirt and pants (and backed by the power of a camera). There’s a great deal of potential there, and that’s why wholesale extermination is repugnant to me.

    We must strive to disprove part of Oppenheimer’s dire prediction of his own legacy:

  • UltimaRatioReg

    BW, in numerous war games with scenarios ranging from Nigeria to the Spratlys to Iran and East Africa, numerous senior military and diplomatic participants in those events described China in very similar, if not precisely, those terms. “Benign” and “benevolent”. This also includes being utterly dismissive of China’s capabilities and intent to disrupt US critical infrastructure through network attacks, despite ten years of work to develop the capabilities, and stated intent, to do just that.

    It has only been in the last two years of the GW Bush administration and the first three of this one, that China is no longer being eyed as an “ally” whose efforts we can “co-opt”, because their objectives of “regional stability” match our own. None of that notion of China as a helpful ally has proven true anywhere, and the converse has been the case in most places, especially on the Korean peninsula.

    Cooperation with a government who has openly stated on several occasions that they desire to gain world supremacy and relegate the United States to secondary status is done at considerable peril.

  • Benjamin Walthrop

    So are you suggesting we follow the advice of the Diogenes of NJ? I think there is a middle ground. What say you?

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Your comprehension is better than that.

    I WOULD suggest, however, that shrinking the Navy at precisely the time when the PRC is growing theirs for the purpose of driving us out of the Pacific Rim is not the wisest of courses. Any map of the Pacific will confirm that it is a long way to swim, especially with equipment.

  • Benjamin Walthrop

    I’m not sure I agree on the shrinking of the Navy bit, but I think we may have more in common than is apparent in the Chinese “challenge” regard.

    I’m encouraged that you don’t subscribe to the more radical views of some respondents. As I said, Chinese political developments should be watched (and responded too…during the appropriate timeframe). I actually added the “timeframe” bit now, but the fundamental thrust of my original post was directed at the initial two posts that your article received. Those represented a ver naive understanding of the consequences of war that we both can relate to relevant personal experiences.

    The geographical argument (read a map or chart in USN language) is a powerful argument for your point of view. Shrinking the USN is a part of that discussion, and I’m not completely convinced that letting the vaunted “EuroFrigates” tend to their own national interests is entirely bad. Shrinking and shifting might be the appropriate course of action although that carries unknowable risk. We shall see.

    The basic thrust of my initial retort was not at your position, but targeted at the immoral position of the first two responders.

  • Byron

    Around ten years ago I read an article in Proceedings which was an interview with an important PLAN admiral. He stated that the goal of the PLAN and the PRC was to build and train its navy in such a manner as to be able to exercise sea control over three lines of influence and control. The last, outer line extended east of Hawaii. It was eerily reminiscent of Imperial Japans ambitions. We’ve had warning from the horses mouth. They’ve plainly said that the PLAN would exercise sea control over these areas. The natural extension of that would mean the ouster of the US Navy from those areas. This is not a threat to be taken idly.

    Matt, saber rattling with nuclear weapons is not only irresponsible, it’s foolish. Do you seriously think the US could get away from nuking the PRC without the Russians having something to say about it? Or even the rest of the world?

  • Derrick

    I don’t care what China’s intentions are. It is the responsibility of the US Navy to plan for confrontation with them since they are quickly becoming the 2nd global superpower…life is a chess game we often play against best friends…yet we always keep our pieces in the right spots regardless.

    The size of the US fleets in the Pacific I have no idea on. I understand there are 3 choke points around China which can be used to contain their navy (I think around Korea, then south of Japan, and then around Indonesia?), so I’m not sure how many ships would be useful in such a tight contained area. I think it would be wise to have some land based jets around those areas, but not sure if the neighbouring countries would agree. If not, that could be compensated for by a lot of carriers and submarines but that would be very $$$ and not sure if I would be just providing more targets for that annoying anti-ship ballistic missile.

    I personally think diplomatic saber rattling would only portray a nation as immature and insecure. I don’t want to be seen as the boy who constantly brags about having the most toys and gets upset when another kid brings a new toy to school.

    However, one cannot discount the huge cost advantage of deploying a nuclear deterrent. With China’s low cost labour they will always have a huge advantage in a conventional warfare situation.

    Lastly, India test fired a nuclear missile capable of nuking Shanghai but China did not officially condemn or show any official concern:

    So who knows? Maybe there are some people in the Chinese government who realize that arms races and spending tons of tax dollars on attempting to achieve military superiority is just a waste of time and money. I hate to type this, but a good example is the USSR; remember that country? The Soviet fell apart because the idiots at the top wanted to have the same number of nuclear toys as the US…so they blew their food stamps on worthless ICBMs. Sadly, the next best example is the US. Spending trillions of dollars over 10 years in 2 wars just bankrupt the country…we have to be more careful of how we spend our tax dollars.

  • Diogenes of NJ

    To my shipmate Byron:

    If you’re only familiar with PRC strategy from ten years ago, here are a few links that may interest you that are a bit more recent:

    after which I would be pleased to hear your thoughts on the question which I posed in my first post: “What are they (the PRC) afraid of now?” BTW you may want to reconsider your admonishment of Matt – STANDBY FOR ACTION!

    – Kyon

  • Diogenes of NJ

    Diogenes of NJ profoundly regrets that there are certain contributors to this medium who are incapable of recognizing the introduction of satirical criticism, to an otherwise amicable and patriotic forum.

    To wit: ‘The assertions to the contrary grow equally foolish-sounding, and detached from reality. One, in a rebuttal to the Bosco article, was that “The prospect of a better outcome lies not in blaming China but in working imaginatively with China and others to transform North Korea under new leadership”.’

    One way to become detached from reality is to engage in flights of imagination. This behavior is by and large harmless as long as it is recognized as such. My verbiage that was linked directly back to the item under discussion should have allowed a reasonably perceptive individual to come to that conclusion; but such is not always the case.

    In this thread, Diogenes has detected a Bilge Water statement that is also a detachment from reality: “I’ve seen the results of that sort of irrational jingoistic fear up close and personal. To call for the extermination of 3 billion people based on the fear of some future competition is immoral at best.”

    Diogenes’ fantasy does not call for the extermination of “3 billion people”, but perhaps the less perceptive among us would benefit from a more detailed explanation.

    Diogenes postulates the incapacitation of the DPRK, a nation of a mere 24,589,122 (July 2012 est.) mostly starving individuals, who’s government’s stated goal is to turn every effort of the North Korean people to the destruction (need I say extermination) of the United States and its allies; a population that easily exceeds 500,000,000 merely considering the principal nations. (population figures are available from the CIA World Factbook

    In Diogenes’ fantasy it is also acknowledged that the magnitude of the particular form of incapacitation proscribed for the DPRK could conceivably extend into the PRC, but there was no stated expectation that the entire population of the PRC (1,343,239,923 July 2012 est.) would be eliminated. In fact, in Diogenes’ fantasy the southern population centers of mainland China as well as the western parts of the nation would emerge entirely unscathed. Beijing might take a hit – c’est la guerre. I can see no reason for the wholesale elimination of the entire population of the PRC; since I suspect that absent the current leadership, most of them would be on our side. (I also imagine that some number of the US population is on the side of the PRC or are useful idiots.)

    So I’d say let’s call it an even half billion in round numbers. In the end it seems, I have let off more than 2.5 billion people from death and devastation, based on a Bilge Water estimate. I maintain that this level of compassion for the enemy is in and of itself alone worthy of a nomination for the “Nobel Peace Prize”.

    The detonation of a nuclear weapon does not constitute the end of the world. I would point out that a comparison of modern day Hiroshima to say Detroit would reveal that there are forces far more devastating to humanity than nuclear weapons and that those forces are practiced under the cover of morality and compassion.

    To address my assertion to the effect: “that ain’t over you know”, I would point out that hostilities on the Korean peninsula are merely under an armistice. In light of recent developments, no one would be surprised if the conflict escalates to a hot war at any time. I do however concede my lack of proper grammar and a less than enlightened syntax. Diogenes offers up the Dizzy Dean apology.

    It is Diogenes’ perception and disappointment that there may have been some buy-in to the phony Bilge Water morality argument. I have higher expectations of my shipmates that I respect. You know better and you have demonstrated that herein numerous times in the past.

    Do not take yourselves too seriously; this is after all merely a blog.

    To my shipmates guilty of displaying the impertinence of agreeing with Diogenes’ position – E go te absolvo ab omnibus censuris, et peccatis. You are hereby absolved of your sin and you have my permission to deny me three times before the cock crows.

    It is Diogenes’ fate to perpetually search for the truth. In the interest of moving this debate further in the direction of the truth, it is Diogenes’ suggestion to the contributors in this august endeavor (for whom I hold the utmost regard), that the focus be placed more on the reality and less on the morality of the situation; lest this discussion evolve into a Theological Seminar.

    This is what Diogenes teaches: “The inability of an individual to perceive the truth has no affect on the truth.”

    – Kyon

  • RickWilmes

    I’m surprised nobody has discussed this aspect of the issue.

    ” India successfully test-fired on Thursday a nuclear-capable missile that can reach Beijing and Eastern Europe, thrusting the emerging Asian power into a small club of nations that can deploy nuclear weapons at such a great distance.”

  • Byron

    You know, a fellow named Adolph back in the early 20th century said that German would be better off if 6 million of it’s population would be murdered en masse. What you’re saying Kyon is pretty much the same thing, once you toss out all the third person verbage and adverbage and get to the core of it. As far as I’m concerned, I no longer need to read anything you write since it’s fair to assume the ideas will not be worth my time to read.

  • Derrick

    Debating intentions is pointless. Interpretations of actions are always subjective…to each his own.

    Deterrence has always been the cornerstone of US military strategy. Let the US navy plan with that high level requirement and leave the interpretation of motives to the politicians.

  • Benjamin Walthrop

    Kyon said, “a bunch of philosophical justification for the killing of 500,000,000 people.”

    It may in fact come to that (I hope not), but it would be a human catastrophe if it did.

    I understand that the role of Diogenese is to play the skeptic and challenge the status quo or the common understanding of human existence. I just don’t happen to agree with the relevance of that approach at this time. When Byron and I agree on something is pretty rare, but to discount the reading and discussion of a point of view is also not the correct path.

    Since we’re not really discussing “the truth” but instead discussing postulated future outcomes, I’ll stand by my assertion that the killing of 500,000,000 or 3,000,000,000 is wrong no matter what framework you happen to believe.

    If that makes these comments associated with Bilge Water than so be it. I’m not particularly prone to the argument that things are immoral, but I suppose that words fail me in this case. I don’t put much importance on the fact that this was supposedly satirical criticism in a patriotic forum. For the sake of humanity, the killing at that magnitude should be fought in prose and reality.

    URR makes the relevant point that the USN cannot reliably predict the outcome of the China and DPRK alliance. It’s something to be watched and planned for, but the “ultimate solution” is something to be avoided if possible.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    I would go further and say that, should the trend lines of the relative sizes of the US Navy and PLAN continue, in ten to fifteen years one will be able to quite reliably predict the outcome of a China/DPRK alliance. The choices will be between a lost fight in a large scale conventional conflict, which will have immediate and severe consequences, or not fighting at all, which will make the consequences exponentially worse for the United States.

  • Derrick

    But does a potential US vs China+North Korea conflict must be a naval battle? Aren’t there US troops and planes in South Korea already? Wouldn’t we get enough advance warning of troop buildups/increased military activity in the area so the US could ship more forces down there to deter?

    Also, any conventional conflict involving China will eventually go nuclear…it has to. China knows this. The Chinese leadership cannot be that stupid, given the growth of the Chinese economy over the past decade…So China initiating any type of stupid battle would only lead to their own annihilation.

    Also, do number of ships translate immediately into victory/defeat? What about air power? Also, China is pretty well contained by Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Phillipines, Malaysia and Australia…not that much water there so I’m not sure how many ships can fit in that before it’s overcrowded over there.

  • Derrick

    A bit off topic, but size of the US navy should not be driven by the number of ships in China’s, but rather on the requirement that in the case of a breakout of war overseas, convoys of US forces can be adequately protected as they are shipped from the US homeland to overseas bases in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, South America, Africa, Australia, etc…if that means maintaining an US navy of 20 carrier strike groups vs China’s single aircraft carrier, then so be it.

    Let’s not let other countries decide what we need to meet our strategic requirement.

  • Derrick

    Or decide what our strategic requirement should be.

  • Diogenes of NJ

    There is a war coming. Economic circumstances make that as plain as anything there ever was. When the war comes people will be killed, many of them. The business in which the United States military and all who support it are engaged – is that in the event our nation or its allies are attacked, the attackers (a.k.a. the ENEMY) will be dealt with – severely.

    In a 900 plus ship Navy with 41 ballistic missile nuclear submarines – all hands understood who the enemy was and how the enemy would be dealt with should war come. We also understood our duty and were willing to lay down our lives for our shipmates and nation. Man was about to land on the moon. The “Cold War” situation that confronted us at the time was dire. There was confidence in our leadership (who had faced down a prior perilous threat) and there was confidence in our ships and our ability to man those ships. Please read the following as it is necessary for your understanding of what I have to say at the conclusion. The scenario is made up. The principle is what we lived.

    Man battle stations missile and Diogenes will relate to you another fantasy that has an excellent chance of coming true:

    We were 77 days into the patrol. The political situation had been steadily deteriorating the weeks before we left port. Everyone on-board knew that this patrol would probably be the one; although we prayed the entire time that it wouldn’t be. On the first day of the war 12 missiles were launched. Six that morning and six later in the day after we had moved a considerable distance from the first firing position. Four missiles remained. We would maintain ultra-quite from now on. Men not on watch would turn in to their racks not only to reduce noise, but since we were now rationing food to 1100 calories a day much sleep was necessary to extend our endurance for as long as possible. You wouldn’t pull a guy’s curtain back if you heard sobbing – you just came back a little while later.

    We were assembled in the crew’s mess, since word was no longer being passed over the 1MC. The skipper told us that communications were down for now, and sonar was picking up few contacts. We were in a place were we wouldn’t be expecting sonar contacts anyway, so that was probably not all that unusual. The skipper said that we were out here until the end. He wasn’t going to sugar coat it – there was likely nothing left to go back to. For the time being our mission was to remain undetected and monitor T-SUB for traffic. We’d trail the wire twice a day, but since LORAN-C and Omega were no longer on the air the only thing it was good for was receiving VLF communications. The Transit Satellites lasted only as long as their last upload; the data ran out quickly. SINS was all we had to recon our position and there were ways our charts could help us get a fix into it. Nuclear detonations were not kind to HF, but that didn’t matter we would not transmit for any reason. The ionosphere would eventually settle out and if the tactical situation permitted it we’d attempt to see what we could pull down on the #2 periscope.

    The skipper said that if communications were not reestablished, his orders told him what to do with the remaining birds. He said the he and every man aboard would follow those orders to the best of our ability – we all swore an oath.

    On the 14th day we once again went to battle stations missile although word was passed on the sound powered phones. We trailed the wire, but TACMO was never heard. The skipper launched number 8; 3, 11 and 16 remained. Later that day sonar reported a possible submarine contact. It may have been a Russian, very distant even for all of the noise it was making.

    On the 19th day we repeated what had transpired five days before; this time it was number 11. After that we fell into a routine. We’d monitor communications and sonar would pick up an occasional contact. Most were classified as either biologics or as undetermined surface craft.

    Nobody cared to look at calendars anymore – but after a considerable number of watches, the doc came around and said that tomorrow was Christmas and the skipper would have an all hands in the morning on the mess decks. In the morning the engineer conducted what could have been construed as a religious service before the captain spoke. The captain said a prayer; then he stated that we were at the point where he had some discretion on how to further proceed. He stated that in a few days we would launch the two remaining birds and head north into an area where the enemy may have survived. When we got there we’d use the fish we had remaining to attack enemy shipping or any surface assets we may encounter. After we ran out of fish, we’d find an allied port and use the electricity the reactor made to assist the survivors. The supply officer found some gilly and the doc said that any man not on watch who wanted it could have a tablespoon full in a mug of bug-juice; we had run out of coffee. The same offer was made to those on watch when they came off.

    Three days later we launched 3 and 16 and headed north. We were never really a very good attack boat.

    When our nation is attacked, a sure and certain retaliation will be exacted upon the enemy. This concept is called deterrence for which there is an equation:

    Deterrence = Capability * Will

    When a disaster on the order of a full blown nuclear exchange occurs there will be survivors. Inevitably the survivors will find it necessary to return to the rubble in spite of the radiation, to salvage whatever remains (this happened at the WTC even before the debris was cleared). Part of the mission of a ballistic missile submarine is to insure that the enemy survivors don’t survive.

    To the best of my knowledge 14 submarines capable of doing this (and more) to the enemy still exist; though I question for how much longer.

    MAD is not a long term strategic solution when it comes to the Chinese. Since no one who participated cared to answer the question: “What do they fear?” – I will provide the answer. They fear their own people. When the western economies collapse, the trade that sustains the Chinese economy will cease. It is unlikely that third world economies could be driven to a level that would even marginally sustain the Chinese trade economy. The Chinese people will have served their purpose which was to economically destroy the west and they will become superfluous in the eyes of the PRC leadership; just as the North Korean people are to the current lunatic in charge in the DPRK. A nuclear attack on China’s population centers may be a solution that the PRC leadership would instigate. These are the conditions that exist. They cannot be fantasized away.

    So build your aluminum ship Navy that will not see 300 hulls in my remaining life time. Build your “Global Force for Good”, but the day fast approaches that a fearless enemy will transform a once mighty fleet into a “Global FARCE for good (as in forever)”.

    After that they will occupy our country by streaming across a non-existent border, enforce population controls (which they already do to their own people) on the non-Chinese inhabitants preventing any births that aren’t Chinese and breed your children out of existence (you might as well call me a racist too since I’m already a Nazi in some eyes).

    I hope our nation gets back some common sense. We will know in a few months hence. But what I suspect is that the leadership will continue to drink bilge water out of the silver tea service in the ward room and at the Army-Navy club. They don’t drink bilge water on the fantail.

    Look – I can understand the propensity to opt for a negotiated solution to a crisis. What I can’t understand is sympathy for the enemy at a cost to our own forces and nation.

    Mr. Walthrop says: “A search of the interwebs for Yosuke Yamahata and his pictorial work in 1945 should be enough to convince any sentient human that this action is not the preferred path for the sake of humanity.”

    Do you have even the vaguest idea of how that sounds back on the fantail? Well I did a search and all I come up with is Japanese anime. So here is a pictorial from 1945 that plays well on the fantail:

    And please sir, the next time you place quotation marks around text and attribute it to me, have the courtesy to cut and paste it from something I actually wrote.

    I really don’t have much more to say on the subject that hasn’t already been played out on the pages of history; just how many more times do you want to see a politician hold up a piece of paper and declare: “Peace in out time!”

    And finally to paraphrase Montjoy: And so fare thee well – thou never shalt hear Diogenes any more.

  • UltimaRatioReg


    I would suggest you peruse open source material on the relative force strength of US/ROK and DPRK. And look at a map of the Pacific. As for letting China decide our strategic requirements, if they are not front and center of considerations of US Naval strength, we are foolhardy in the extreme.

  • Matt

    Einstein stated the main reason for him contributing to the development of the most destructive bomb in human history was not because he wanted his country to have such a bomb but that he knew full well that the enemies of his/our country would in time develop this technology and that if someone was going to have this new weapon it better be the US. Not long after that of course that weapon was used two times to defeat an enemy which we simply could not afford to defeat otherwise.

    Now backing up to the original comment and my comment of agreement, they were a response, in words, of China giving the North Koreans mobile ICBMs (TEL launchers). This for me is about equivalent to the Pakistanis handing Al Qaeda or even the Taliban nukes. Rage. Rage because I know that they might just be crazy enough to use them. If the Pakistanis had given Al Qaeda a nuke, yea I would want to nuke Pakistan too. Don’t forget we are in a war (both with Pakisan/Al Qaeda and North Korea) and sometimes you have to defeat the enemy in a war. So when the enemy is receiving weapons that you know might, if used, destroy your country…YES preemptive strikes are what you must do for your own self-preservation. If you want to wait around for the enemy to go first, you are the one that is foolish.

    Nukes are weapons. This country needs to understand that weapons are invented for winning wars. Nuclear weapons are terrible and insane but so is war. Not all countries and people are going to be the rational USSR type. To expect that Al Qaeda for instance wouldn’t use one is crazy. I would argue North Korea is as dangerous if not more so.

    My assertion that Gen. MacArthur should’ve been allowed to use nukes (as he recommended) to defeat China would’ve put us in a totally different situation. The Koreas would be united. The concentration camps would not exist. There would be plenty to eat and there would be no WMDs on the peninsula and China would be acting more like Japan. I believe China would’ve been a more responsible neighbor. No proxy option. I should be able to make that argument, for a victory for our country, and not be labeled as some kind of Nazi because I think nukes have a role, as a weapon of war.

    It is disgusting to hear Americans lump the use of nuclear weapons in with the Holocaust. I’ve heard many times comparisons and they have nothing to do with each other. In case you didn’t notice the Holocaust was committed without nukes and so was the Bosnian genocide, the Rwandan genocide and now the Syrian genocide. Nukes and genocide have never been used together in reality. Genocides, in fact, happen to people who did NOT have the weapons they needed to defend themselves.

    The real outrage here is the focus of the post and that China is giving the North ICBMs. While at the same time our govt. is walking on egg shells giving Taiwan, a free country, conventional weapons for self-defense.

    Diogenes was pissed and so am I….THAT THE ENEMY NOW HAS ICBM’s which makes WAR MORE LIKELY. War with North Korea means war with China which means the US better be capable of pulling THE trigger to WIN the WAR.

    Also I would point out that missile defense once perfected will mean removing the MAD equilibrium that once existed. The use of WMDs will be on the menu of options to obtain victory for our enemies, let’s not tie our hands in an attempt to feel good about ourselves at the expense of our future. The US should use every weapon and any weapon necessary, at any time, for Victory in time of war. As far as what Russia would “say” of us using nukes…I’d bet they would have a newfound respect for us…especially if we have missile defense. Putin is already worried very much that we might be on our way to a free hand with missile defense.

    I am honored to share a point of view with a Warrior who once lived in a steel tube under the oceans for months at a time willing to send the enemy, who would annihilate our country… TO HELL! As for humanity…it’s always been a mess. We have been the exception. The US military is responsible for keeping THIS COUNTRY the exception. The US Constitution mentions ZIP, ZERO, NADA about protecting all of “humanity”.

    It should not be taboo to discuss, especially on this site, a full throated, all options defense of the United States of America. Like Einstein I see the writing on the wall and demand that the US come out of war on top. Simple as that.

  • Derrick

    I can understand the philosophy of basing the size/complement of one’s hypothetical military on the assumption of facing a likely peer competitor, but that only deters that particular peer competitor. Focusing on the Pacific and building to deter China may leave room for other countries to try to push the US out of the Atlantic, for example. Far fetched, but just trying to make a point by blowing things out to extremes.

    Which is why I suggest to not overly fret over any single countries’ intentions or actions and set a simple high level business driver: Build an US navy/military/whatever that can deter aggression anywhere and protect US use of the oceans for transporting military equipment.

    If that means a 1500 ship navy or a 1 ship navy, I have no idea. I’ll leave it to you experts to decide.

    But don’t build based on the assumption that only China will cause US issues, otherwise others may get mischeivous.

    I wouldn’t want to spend trillions of dollars on building up a super-expensive conventional deterrent in the Pacific, only to have the next troublespot be somewhere in Eastern Europe, Africa, etc…

    As for maps, I looked briefly at a map of China’s shores and I see 3 choke points:
    1) Between Japan and South Korea.
    2) Between Japan and the Phillipines.
    3) Between the Phillipines and Vietnam.
    The first choke point theoretically could be covered by US air power based in Japan. As for the other 2, I forgot the US gave up its bases in the Phillipines, so those will probably require naval forces and such. But how many carrier strike groups can fit in those waters before it gets too crowded?

  • Derrick

    As for relative force strengths of US+ROK vs PRC+DPRK, well…no matter what, the US+ROK side will always be at a disadvantage due to numbers. Sadly, that’s why the US can never commit to ruling out the use of a nuclear first strike.

    I guess it comes down to how far is the US public willing to go before opting to use nuclear weapons?

    But since President Obama has already declared Asia the focus, the only real debate here is how much to spend on military forces in Asia…and that again is a decision for the US public: to decide how long a conventional war they are willing to tolerate before using nuclear weapons.

  • Benjamin Walthrop

    The North Koreans have had some level of IRBM capability for some time now. As the spectacular success of the SLV proved, they are still working on longer range (ICBM) options. I don’t pretend to know why the Chinese appear to have provided TELs for what may or may not be a viable IRBM capability. It looks to me like the provision of the TELs, or at least the chassis for the TELs, happened after the UNSCRs that should have prohibited such activity.

    Responding to a viable threat should always be foremost in the minds of the US Military and the US Navy in particular. Where I differ in viewpoint from Matt and Diogenes is that either the US is currently in a state of war (with NK and PRC) or that war is inevitable. It’s not taboo to discuss these topics, and it was never my intent to make it so.

    My perspective is that a nuclear war between the US and PRC (or Russia, or India, or Pakistan — to a lesser degree, or France, or the UK, or Iran — to a lesser degree, or Israel) would probably be a catastrophe to humanity. Diogenes of New Jersey’s fantasy goes a pretty long way in suggesting that point is valid in fact. When there’s nothing left to go home too, you might as well burn it all. That’s the message I took from his parable at any rate.

    Pre-emption is a sticky topic, and pre-emption with nuclear weapons should be viewed (in my opinion) with great skepticism. I suspect that the Diogenes of Sinope would agree, but I could be mistaken.

    The fact that China appears to possess a proven road mobile ICBM capability rather than the unproven DPRK “capability” should be enough to give one pause in considering pre-emptive nuclear (or large scale conventional war) against the PRC. If it comes, I have confidence that the legacy and current crop of folks who have spent years in steel tubes, submerged under the Pacific and Atlantic, will do their duty. That capability is certainly proven, and the will to use it has been adequately demonstrated by our nation.

    In the interim, I believe we as a nation should work to avoid that issue because pretending that anyone can win at nuclear war is reckless.

    When asked where he was from, Diogenes of Sinope said, “I am a citizen of the world.” I’ll stick with that approach combined with the Teddy Roosevelt’s philosophy governing foreign affairs for now.

  • Byron

    Roger, Benjamin! Big Stick!!!

    And that folks, is a REASONED statement.

  • Derrick

    No one can win at war, period. The loss of life is tragic on all sides. That’s why FDR did not demobilize the US military after World War 2: Peace through strength works.

    But back to the topic of the thread:
    Obviously China is supporting North Korea…it’s in their best interests so they don’t have to do whatever the US tells them to do. If the US wants to stop that, I still think the best thing is to stop importing Chinese goods…that way they won’t be able to use US dollars to finance North Korea.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    People do win at war. It is a means to an end. If you recoil at the cost of that end, you are taking a largely American, certainly Western view.

    One would think we would have learned that the rest of the world doesn’t look through occidental glasses.

    BTW, FDR was long dead by the time Japan surrendered.

  • Derrick

    Sorry…meant Truman.

  • Benjamin Walthrop

    To be fair I said nuclear war, and I wasn’t specific enough. I assumed a nuclear war with some parity of exchange. I also suppose how you define winning. The now defunct Office of Technology Assessment has a pretty good report on in it. Here’s the link:

    Appendix D to this report is a quick layout of the direct impact of four scenarios of nuclear war. The whole report attempts to cover prompt and prolonged impacts. Even in the Counterforce and other Military Targets Scenario the knock-on economic impacts would be very damaging and would likely politically change the country in ways that a very challenging to predict. I wouldn’t call that winning.

    Here’s Appendix D:

  • UltimaRatioReg

    No Benjamin, it doesn’t matter how I define “winning”. It matters how those who don’t necessarily share my views define “winning”.

    Which extends to the realm of nuclear conflict, as well as conventional.

    Our “rational” is not everyone’s “rational”.

    Some glorious day we are going to realize that. Not North Korea, Iran, Russia, Pakistan, China, nor even India share our world view.

  • Matt

    Well my jaw is dropped!

    The White House has just sent a letter to Sen. Cornyn reversing the decision to not sell new F-16 C/D fighters to Taiwan. No clear numbers or deal but its a great turnaround. And a timely counter to Chinese TEL exports. Maybe someone agreed with my comment from above (The real outrage…)? 🙂

    BZ White House!

    Long way to go but its a start. Never give up the ship (Taiwan)!