The tension brewing between the US and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or North Korea can equally serve as flashpoint between the US and China.
Political analysts fear not North Korea’s response but the specter of a limited nuclear war that has all the likelihood of escalating. The ratcheting of tension has been building up with North Korea now feeling unrestrained to carry out its nuclear weapons development program and in improving its delivery system. The US has been piqued by the open defiance despite threats of retributive bombing.
As the cauldron in the Korean peninsula emit threats and counter threats, one could not help speculate that China is in fact the real target. Iranian spokesman Mohammad Marandi once pointed out that the US has consistently stated a different reason to advance its objective like its unilateral deployment of Patriot missiles in Eastern Europe. Marandi explained that the US pointed to the nuclear threat of Iran as the reason that necessitated its deployment of missiles in Poland, Romania and Estonia.
But the world knows they are intended for Russia in violation to the Reagan-Gorbachev accord for ending the Cold War in 1991. As one would argue, the Patriot missiles should have been deployed much closer to Iran if that was the case. The alibi to install the THAAD missiles in South Korea is no different, which reason why China now sees it as threat to its own security.
What many do not know is it was only the South Korean military that “asked” and “agreed” the deployment of the THAAD missiles.
The South Korean government, including then-President Park Gen-hye, has not said anything knowing that the issue is very unpopular to the Korean people. In fact, all the presidential candidates refuse to openly endorse the stationing of US missiles in their country. Candidates like former UN Secretary General Ban ki-moon refuse to make clear his position, while Moon Jae-In said that relations with China is more important than the THAAD and Ahn Cheol-Soo who is believed to succeed President Park Geun-hye is likely to make a stand against the deployment of the missiles.
The international community continues to blame North Korea for its bellicose behavior. But if one would analyze, such is characteristic of its sense of insecurity and growing political isolation. While on the surface, the THAAD missiles may serve as deterrent, a second look would indicate that it is more of a threat to China. China now feels uneasy, seeing a destabilization of its next-door neighbor that could see US forces armed with nuclear weapons advancing closer to its border.
Besides, China will never allow the memory of the more 300,000 Chinese troops who died in defense of an ally during the Korean War to be technically erased by the US reoccupation of the North.
President Trump is right in calling Kim Jong Un a “smart cookie” because he seriously takes his country’s nuclear weapons development program as his tool for survival and a hinge for the US to think twice. Even China knows that it is not wise to push Pyongyang to the wall for in the event of nuclear war, China could not escape the radioactive fallout and can even be dragged to join the conflagration.
Nonetheless, most strategic analysts downgrade North Korea’s missile capability to accurately hit the US mainland. The US knows this but continues to make hype about the nuclear threat to increase the appetite of its allies in Asia to purchase its weapons. This is the same reason why the lamentable Noynoy Aquino administration joined the chorus about the alleged China threat to justify the country’s acquisition for more US weapons, mostly of the third-generation model. In fact, President Trump already declared he would bill South Korea $1 billion for the deployment of the THAAD missiles there.
Admittedly, this practice of charging allies for their security and for the weapons, even if it was carried out against their will, has been going on since the US economy began to tumble.
Alliance with the US today is no longer on the basis of shared strategic interest, but in making clear that those that seek its protection must pay the right price. The problem is that the US cannot demand that condition much that nobody requested her to assume that role. In truth, what the US is doing is to protect her own interest that goes with her role as a global hegemon.
The unusual thing about the fee demanded by the US is that those missiles will remain under the operational control of the US Armed Forces. The South Korean soldiers will be mainly assigned to securing the perimeter where those missiles are located. It means the US still will decide whom to target, yet it will be the Korean people that will bear the brunt of the damage in the event of full-scale hostilities.
One has to understand that peace has not really settled in the peninsula. What exists there is truce or temporary cession of hostilities. Since war technically exists, the US in the meantime has reduced the southern half of the peninsula to a virtual garrison using the flag of the United Nations Command to establish military bases, including the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons. At present there are about 30,000 US troops in the south and several airfields and a naval base. What has become intimidating and annoying to Pyongyang is the continued holding of joint military exercise by US and South Korean forces allegedly to hone their troops against possible invasion.
Peace is within reach if only the US would cross half of the bridge. North Korea simply demands a peace treaty to replace the armistice agreement signed on July 27, 1953 where, among others, the US will promise not to invade the country and lift the economic sanction. Only by accepting these demands can peace proceed with the US enjoying a high moral ground to demand that North Korea to stop its nuclear weapons development and missiles testing.
Without understanding what the other side wants, it would be difficult to defuse the powder keg and the tension will remain a dilemma to China.