“The scramble for Korea”

First published April 21, 2017. Situation: Unchanged

China bomber


China put bombers on ‘high alert’, with an eye on North Korea, CNN reports today.

Some quotes from the article:

“Chinese air force land-attack, cruise-missile-capable bombers were put “on high alert” on Wednesday as the US sees evidence that the Chinese military is preparing to respond to a potential situation in North Korea, a US defense official tells CNN.”

“These recent steps by the Chinese are assessed as part of an effort to “reduce the time to react to a North Korea contingency,” the official said.”

“Such a contingency could include the risk of an armed conflict breaking out as tensions on the peninsula have increased in the wake of multiple North Korean missile tests.”

“Beijing has long been concerned about potential instability in North Korea should the regime in Pyongyang collapse, fearing both an influx of refugees and the potential of reunification under a South Korean government closely allied to the US.”

“China is also opposed to the US military’s presence in South Korea, protesting the recent US and South Korea decision to begin deploying elements of the THAAD missile defense system.”

This ‘analysis’ of China’s response deserves some more scrutiny: It is not the full ‘story’.

North Korea – at least to a certain extend – has also been a problematic neighbour for China. But North Korea – until now – served a ‘tactical’ purpose for China: At least both Korea’s were not re-united, and a ‘direct’ border with a powerful American ally – a united Korea – could be avoided.

Korea – a united Korea – will be an important ‘player’ in Asia in the future. Both China and the United States want ‘control’, and are now ‘jockeying’ for power and influence.

The United States does not tolerate other Great Powers in a dominant position that could (potentially) challenge America’s interests. The current international order especially serves American interests.

But power shifts in the System, in favour of China. In response – especially under Trump – the United States has become increasingly ‘possessive’ of the international order; America First.

The United States itself did never shy away from strong-arm ‘tactics’ in its (recent) history: What would America’s reaction be if for example China would follow its example and declare a contemporary version of the ‘Monroe Doctrine‘ in what it considers China’s sphere of influence?

North Korean provocations can no longer be avoided. The United States – and China under pressure of the United States – are no longer willing to play North Korea’s game. North Korea has overplayed its hands it was a matter of time, and a ‘collision’ has become unavoidable.

The ‘big issue‘ that looms in the background – but soon in the foreground – is who will ‘control’ Korea or what is left of it: the United States or China. To whom will Korea ‘align’?

China will not tolerate a united Korea closely associated with the United States. Are China’s bombers put on ‘high alert’ to ensure the United States and South Korea will not overrun North Korea, to create a ‘fait accompli’ for China?

China has come to the aid of North Korea before, during the Korean War (1950-1953) just to avoid such a scenario from happening.

Or, that is another but not so likely scenario, has China got a ‘the green light‘ from Trump to ‘neutralise’ North Korea – and eliminate a threat for the United States –  and include it in its sphere of influence?