Should China Militarily Take Over North Korea?

I doubt the Chinese would want to overnight take on responsibility for the basket case that is North Korea, but if they did it seems this would be one of the least bad options for the United States to resolve the nuclear issue:

Flags of China and North Korea are seen outside the closed Ryugyong Korean Restaurant in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, China, April 12, 2016.

A longtime editor of a magazine that specializes in global power politics recently put forth a scenario where China would stage a takeover of North Korea, giving Washington and the rest of the world a nuclear weapons-free Korean Peninsula.

Bill Emmott, the former editor-in-chief of The Economist magazine, said such a move by China would not only gain Beijing a solid foothold on the Korean Peninsula, but also the opportunity to strengthen its own geopolitical position, enhance its global power status, perhaps even the ability to claim the reputation of a peacemaker.

That is the “least bad military option” vis a vis North Korea, Emmott said, in that it would avoid subjecting U.S. allies in Asia, including South Korea and Japan, to North Korea’s retaliation that could potentially devastate large parts of South Korea.

China’s takeover of North Korea, as Emmott sees it, would put North Korea “where the country’s post-Korean War history suggests it belongs: under a Chinese nuclear umbrella, benefiting from a credible security guarantee.”

He also said he sees incentives for North Koreans to go along with the plan: “Whereas a nuclear exchange with the U.S. would mean devastation, submission to China would promise survival, and presumably a degree of continued autonomy.”

Emmott said this strategy could win over a majority of North Korea’s military, “except those closest to Kim.”  [VOA News]

You can read more at the link, but considering the importance of race based nationalism in North Korea getting the military to go along with this idea I think would be a very tough sell.

The Historical Context of the Adversarial Relationship Between North Korea and China

Noted journalist Blaine Harden has a good piece published on the PBS Frontline website that explains why North Korea has such an adversarial relationship with China despite the Kim regime being dependent on their aid:

Kim Il-sung grew up in northeast China, where in the 1930s he became a guerrilla leader and fought alongside Chinese Communist partisans against Japanese occupiers. Without warning, local Communists turned on Kim and his men. Several hundred ethnic Koreans were tortured and murdered in a racist purge based on the party’s paranoid, and false, belief that they were secretly working with the Japanese.

Kim was arrested in China in 1934 and was lucky to survive. He later called the purge “a mad wind … [Koreans] were being slaughtered indiscriminately by [Chinese] with whom they had shared bread and board only yesterday.”

During the Korean War, his bitter memories were compounded by a painfully public loss of face. Kim Il-sung started the war in 1950 by invading South Korea with the backing of Stalin’s Soviet Union. But his army was soon obliterated by an American-led coalition and North Korea all but disappeared — until Chinese forces entered the fight and forced Kim to the sidelines of his own war. China’s top general, Peng Dehuai, chided Kim for his “extremely childish” leadership, telling him, “You are hoping to end this war based on luck.”

Kim Il-sung would never forget how he was treated. After the war, he made sure that China’s role in saving and rebuilding his state was largely erased from official histories. His resentment was compounded in 1980, when China publicly denounced as feudalism his decision to transfer absolute power to his son, Kim Jong Il, a succession that made North Korea the world’s only hereditary Communist kingdom.

Ill feelings between North Korea and China have often been mutual. Mao Zedong regarded Kim Il-sung as rash and doctrinaire — once describing him as “a number-one pain in the butt.” In 1992, China infuriated the Kim family by establishing diplomatic relations with South Korea, the archenemy of the North.  [PBS Frontline]

You can read more at the link, but just like his grandfather Kim Jong-un is being a “pain in the butt” to China.  However, he knows he can be adversarial because the Chinese will likely do nothing to remove the Kim regime because of the alternatives to the “pain in the butt” are worse.  That is why the Chinese will never completely abandon the regime until there is a better alternative offered.

Picture of the Day: North Korea Tells Chinese News Media “To Mind Their Own Business”

N.K. blasts Chinese media on nuke coverage

An article carried by the Rodong Sinmun, the organ of North Korea’s ruling party, on Sept. 22, 2017, blasts Chinese media for criticizing the North’s nuclear program. The article, published on Page 6, called out different outlets of China, the biggest patron of the North, by names and called their news coverage “an act of the blind whose eyes are open and the deaf and dumb” who cannot understand the essence of the nuclear issue. “They had better mind their own business, before impudently pointing an accusing finger at others,” it said. (Yonhap)

Are North Korea’s Recent Provocations Timed to Embarrass China?

The timing of the recent provocations could just be coincidence, but maybe the Kim regime is trying to embarrass Chinese President Xi:

“There’s a lot of domestic politics in North Korea where this young leader who isn’t well-known, he’s not proven yet, especially has to show that he’s not in the pocket of Beijing,” said John Delury of Seoul’s Yonsei University. “I think he made the decision first to keep Hu Jintao and then (current President) Xi Jinping really at bay.”

Within months of coming to power, Kim telegraphed North Korea’s intentions by amending its constitution to proclaim itself a nuclear state. The execution of Jang in 2013 sealed Beijing’s distrust of the young leader.

“Of course the Chinese were not happy,” said a foreign diplomat in Beijing focused on North Korea. “Executing your uncle, that’s from the feudal ages.”

In an attempt to warm ties, Xi sent high-ranking Communist Party official Liu Yunshan to attend the North’s October 2015 military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

Liu hand-delivered a letter from Xi praising Kim’s leadership and including congratulations not just from the Chinese Communist Party but Xi’s personal “cordial wishes” in a powerful show of respect.

Xi’s overture has been repaid with increasingly brazen actions by Pyongyang, which many observers believe are timed for maximum embarrassment to Beijing. Sunday’s nuclear test, for example, took place as China hosted a BRICS summit, while in May, the North launched a long-range missile just hours before the Belt and Road Forum, dedicated to Xi’s signature foreign policy initiative.  [Reuters]

You can read more at the link.

Kim Jong-nam Murdered to Stop Chinese Sponsored Coup?

It has long been suspected that the Chinese government kept close ties with Kim Jong-nam as sort of a Plan B if needed in North Korea.  According to the below article Kim Jong-nam made sure a Chinese Plan B could never happen after he got word of a possible coup:

Kim Jong-nam

When Kim Jong Nam was killed with a deadly nerve agent in an airport in Malaysia in February, it may have thwarted an attempt backed by the Chinese government to overthrow his half-brother, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Citing three sources, Nikkei Asian Review reported on Monday that top government officials in China and North Korea in 2012 seriously considered a plot to remove Kim Jong Un.

Nikkei reports that Hu Jintao, China’s president at the time, met with Kim Jong Un’s uncle, who floated the idea of replacing him with his half-brother, a politically unmotivated gambler.

But because of a recent scandal involving the death of the son of one of Hu’s advisers, the Chinese leader did not immediately act.

According to the report, a top adviser to Jiang Zemin, Hu’s predecessor and rival, caught wind of the plot and informed Kim Jong Un, who in 2013 had his uncle executed and purged several officials with ties to China.  [American Military News]

You can read more at the link.

China Once Again Pushing for Freeze to US-ROK Military Exercises

CNN has a long article published advocating for a freeze deal with North Korea by suspending US-ROK military exercises.  As I have long said suspending or degrading the US-ROK alliance is a long term goal of China.  Suspending the upcoming UFG military exercises will only invite more belligerent behavior by North Korea by rewarding bad behavior and further advance China’s strategic goal of ending the US-ROK alliance:

In an editorial Tuesday, nationalistic state-run tabloid Global Times said South Korea should “act as a buffer” between the US and North Korea and urged Seoul to halt the upcoming joint military exercise.
The dual freeze approach put forward by China and Russia often “gets a bad rap” in Washington because of who backs it, said Delury. “But it’s a way for both sides to take a step back, lower the temperature (and) explore a diplomatic option.”
Zhao said such a freeze could “have prevented North Korea from fast advancing their missile programs, especially from acquiring an ICBM capability so quickly.”
However, Pinkston described such a deal as a “completely asymmetric,” pointing out that regular military exercises held by North Korea and China would not be covered by it.  [CNN]
You can read more at the link, but what I think the US should do is say they would sign up for a freeze deal if the punishment for non-compliance by North Korea is the authorization of preemptive strikes to take out their nuclear and missile programs.  The North Koreans would never sign up for such a deal because like past agreements they fully intend to violate it at a time of their choosing.  However, offering this condition shows the US attempted to negotiate and the North Koreans were the ones that would not agree to a deal.

China Puts North Korea on Notice that They Will Not Assist North Korea If They Attack US Soil

This is very interesting that the Chinese government has apparently given the US the go ahead to attack North Korea in response to a strike against US soil, but not to the extent that it leads to regime change:

China won’t come to North Korea’s help if it launches missiles threatening U.S. soil and there is retaliation, a state-owned newspaper warned on Friday, but it would intervene if Washington strikes first.

The Global Times newspaper is not an official mouthpiece of the Communist Party, but in this case its editorial probably does reflect government policy and can be considered “semi-official,” experts said.  (…..)

“China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten U.S. soil first and the U.S. retaliates, China will stay neutral,” it added. “If the U.S. and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so.” [Stars & Stripes]


You can read more at the link.

President Trump Tweets that He Is “Disappointed” that China Has Done “Nothing” with North Korea

I think President Trump is going to continue to be disappointed by China because nothing has changed that has made it in their interest to do anything about North Korea:

In a pair of tweets Saturday evening, President Trump said he is “disappointed” in China after North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan.

“I am very disappointed in China. Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk,” Trump wrote, adding, “We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!”  [ABC News]

You can read more at the link.

China Increases Threats Against THAAD Deployment in South Korea While Coddling North Korea

It seems like people in South Korea may finally be seeing how two faced China is, it just took a change in the ROK Presidential administration to confirm it:

Residents of Seongju County, North Gyeongsang Province, protest President Moon Jae-in’s order to consult with the U.S. over the temporary deployment of four more launchers of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery to a golf course in the country where two launchers have already been installed, during a press conference in front of the Ministry of National Defense in Yongsan, Seoul, Monday. / Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk

China is remaining low key over North Korea’s purported successful test-firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) Friday, while criticizing South Korea for its decision to deploy additional U.S. anti-missile launchers to deter Pyongyang’s military threats.

This is part of China’s “two-faced” policy of embracing North Korea as a buffer zone against U.S. military power and bullying South Korea to bring discord to the Seoul-Washington alliance, analysts said Monday.

China apparently toned down its rhetoric, turning a deaf ear to the international community’s condemnation of Pyongyang’s missile launch late Friday night.

It only asked North Korea to “observe the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions and suspend activities that can heighten tension on the Korean Peninsula.”  (……..)

On the contrary, Beijing has intensified its protest against the deployment of a U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery in South Korea, after Seoul decided to install four additional launchers of the system temporarily in addition to the two that are in operation.

On Saturday, the Chinese foreign ministry expressed “grave concerns” over the Moon Jae-in administration’s decision to deploy the additional THAAD launchers.

Saying it “firmly opposes” THAAD, the ministry said the U.S. missile shield “seriously” damages the balance of power in the region while violating China’s national interest. It has urged both Seoul and Washington to suspend the THAAD deployment and withdraw related equipment.  (…..)

“China’s long-term goal is to weaken the U.S. influence in the Asia-Pacific region, and North Korea’s progress in ICBM technology serves its purpose,” said Yang Uk, a senior research fellow at the Korea Defense and Security Forum. “This is because Washington, jointly with Seoul and Tokyo, will have to spend extra time and money against Pyongyang’s ICBMs while Beijing can go ahead with its plan to flex its muscles in the region. It’s no wonder China did not criticize Pyongyang as harshly as it did Seoul.”

“Under these circumstances, I must say China is colluding with North Korea and is being negligent in its duty as a permanent member of the UNSC,” a researcher at the Sejong Institute said on condition of anonymity.  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link, but you have to love the claim from China that THAAD harms their national interests.  North Korean ICBMs do much more to harm the ROK and the United States’ national interests which China clearly does not care about.