Thursday, April 28, 2016

China's president Xi: No war in the Korean Peninsula.

China's President Xi Jinping. Reuters. 

China's president, Xi Jinping, says that China will not allow chaos or war to break out on the Korean Peninsula. Reuters. President Xi said that war would be in nobodies best interest. The announcement comes shortly after North Korea tired to launch yet another ballistic missile. The test failed shortly after launch and was the second test firing to fail recently. North Korea is also expected to test another nuclear device as their ruling party congress is set to begin next week. China is North Korea's only major ally but they are growing frustrated with North Korea's attempts to develop nuclear weapons. 

In related news North Korea is undergoing major food shortages. AP/CBS. Food production dropped 6% last year, due in large part to water shortages and droughts. Due to these shortages, North Korea will have to import thousands of tons of food. 

My Comment:
Sounds like China is getting tired of North Korea. They have reason to be mad. The actions of North Korea causes instability in the region, which is not something the Chinese government wants. They are also in danger of having the North Koreans upset America so much that our government actually puts pressure on the Chinese to finally do something about the entire situation. Indeed, just yesterday Donald Trump said that he would do exactly that if elected. 

China must finally be starting to understand that North Korea isn't worth the risk that they cause. Yes, they are very useful as a buffer state. If Korea was united the 30,000 or so U.S. soldiers, along with the combined armies of the North and South Koreans would be right on their border. Obviously that's not a good outcome for the Chinese. But at some point the Chinese have to admit that it just isn't worth it anymore. 

Right now what is keeping the Chinese from punishing the North Koreans to severely is the threat of war. Coming down hard on the North Koreans in a vulnerable time could cause them to do something desperate which could result in a shooting war.  I am guessing that the Chinese would avoid the fighting, but they would still face massive consequences. Much like Europe is drowning in the massive economic and cultural costs of a massive migration wave, China too would have to deal with possibly millions of people fleeing the 2nd Korean War. 

And there would be other consequences as well. If the 2nd Korean War would go nuclear, it's likely that fallout from the Korean peninsula could reach China. There is also the threat of biological warfare. North Korea has an active bioweapons program and if they unleashed the right virus into the wild, like smallpox for example, it wouldn't take much for it to spread to China as well. The best case scenario for China is a major disruption in trade and a huge refugee crisis. The worst case scenario is a war with the west, which is almost unthinkable. 

It's a lose lose situation for the Chinese. If they crack down on North Korea, they lose their buffer zone and may actually do enough damage to the regime that it collapses. That would also lead to a refugee crisis, and even if the regime survives. And it's not inconceivable that a desperate North Korea could go to war anyways. If they give them too much leeway, they could bring the peninsula to war as well, plus they would have to deal with economic and political pressure for the west. It's a bad situation all around for China.

But as bad as it is for them, it is way worse in North Korea. The famine of last year is clearly having a major impact on the lives of North Koreans. I am guessing people are starving right now and if this year's harvest fails as well, then the North Koreans will be in serious trouble. Though the regime has survived major famines in the past, with a newer leader in Kim Jong Un, it's possible that it won't survive this time. 

Which is what these nuclear tests and ballistic missile tests are all about. North Korea is desperately trying to bring other countries to the negotiating table so they can trade concessions with their nuclear program for food. They need millions of tons of food to feed their people and they can't get them any other way. This has worked in the past but it doesn't seem to be working this time. America is distracted by the Middle East and a presidential election, and everyone else in the region, China included, is tired of North Korea's act. 

If the nuclear test fails to get the food aid the North Koreans desperately need, they may try something else to get it. It could be another attack on a South Koran naval vessel. It could be a border skirmish. It could even be a terrorist attack. But I think they will try something in order to get the food aid they need so badly. Any of these events could spiral into a major war, if calmer heads don't prevail. North Korea would lose any such war but they would do a massive amount of damage before they went down in flames. An injured animal, backed into a corner, is still dangerous even if it isn't normally that threatening. Let's all hope that North Korea's harvest this year is a good one and their summer is wet and not dry... 

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