Is North Korea Part of a Grind Down Strategy Against US Military Implemented By China?

The “grind down” strategy by China against the US Navy appears to be working judging by recent incidents:

In regard to China, in particular, neither the Obama nor the Trump administrations has shifted forces to the Pacific in sufficient enough numbers or capability, said James R. Holmes, professor of strategy at the US Naval War College.
“China has come to this commonsense realization, and understands that it can grind down adversary sea services just by being active in its ‘near seas,’ mainly the China seas,” said Holmes. “Imposing a swift ‘optempo’ on your opponent, meaning keeping him on the go all the time, wearies him over time. And while that hasn’t been a direct cause of this year’s mishaps, it does contribute to crew fatigue, cut down on training time, and thus exacerbate the factors our navy cited in its recent collision reports.”
In response, the Navy has two options, said Holmes. “We can build up our navy to a level where it can do all of these things without wearing out crews and hardware, or we can ‘pivot’ or ‘re-balance’ more of our forces to the Pacific theater.”
Holmes points out that while large, the 7th Fleet represents only a part of the US Navy. “If we can no longer overpower opponents in both the Atlantic and Pacific, then we need to make some hard choices about where to apply the bulk of our effort — and accept that that means accepting risk in the other theater.”  [CNN]
You can read the rest at the link, but that is why I have always thought the Chinese want to keep a certain level of provocations active with North Korea.  They want enough provocations to continue to strain US military resources, but they don’t want a serious enough provocation that would warrant a US attack.

China Reportedly Made Demand that South Korea Build Wall to Block THAAD Radar

This is officially the stupidest thing I have read all day:

China may have asked South Korea to build a wall to block a U.S. missile defense system from monitoring Chinese military movements.

The request from Beijing comes at a time when Seoul is preparing for a summit between President Moon Jae-in and Chinese President Xi Jinping, Munhwa Ilbo reported Thursday.

Multiple South Korean diplomatic sources are not sure how the request could be met, as the deployment of THAAD, or Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, was a joint decision with the United States.

“The Chinese side is demanding the installation of a barrier to block the THAAD radar, although this is not a decision to be made by [the South Korean] government,” the Munhwa’s sources said.

The South Korean newspaper’s sources also said the requests began as early as July, when China was engaged in unofficial sanctions against South Korean companies operating in the world’s second-largest economy.

On Wednesday Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with his South Korean counterpart Kang Kyung-hwa in Beijing.  [UPI]

You can read more at the link, but first of all this journalist does not seem to understand what the THAAD radar is.  The THAAD’s AN/TPY-2 radar is not used to monitor military movements.  It is used to detect and track ballistic missiles.  Secondly if the South Korean’s built a wall in front of the radar then it would be useless for tracking North Korean ballistic missiles which defeats the point of having the THAAD there in the first place.

I wonder if the South Korean diplomats were able to keep a straight face or did they seriously consider this stupid idea?

South Korea Agrees to the “Three Nos” with China on THAAD Deployment

Here is how South Korea has ended its dispute with China about the deployment of the THAAD battery to Seongju:

The recent agreement to restore relations between South Korea and China was achieved by having South Korea assuage China’s security concerns through public pronouncement of the “three no’s” – no additional THAAD deployment, no participation in the US’s missile defense network and no establishment of a trilateral military alliance with the US and Japan. But since the situation is liable to change with conditions on the Korean Peninsula and the interests of the countries concerned, it’s hard to say how the government’s promise of the “three no’s” will play out.There’s not likely to be a push for additional THAAD deployments under the administration of South Korean President Moon Jae-in. For one, opposition to THAAD deployment is the prevailing view among the Moon administration’s base of supporters.

Furthermore, since THAAD is designed to intercept enemy missiles at the high altitude of 40 to 150 km, it cannot defend the Seoul region, which is close to the armistice line, and can therefore only be deployed in the southern part of the country. Since one THAAD unit is already deployed in this southern area, there would seem to be little reason to deploy another. But if North Korea’s nuclear weapon and missile threat grows even more, South Korea could conceivably find itself under increasing pressure in a variety of ways to allow further deployment.Seoul’s declaration that it will not participate in the US missile defense network has been the government’s basic stance going all the way back to the Kim Dae-jung administration. This is in consideration of China, which suspects that the US wants to build a missile defense network in northeast Asia to neutralize China’s military.

In exchange, Seoul has announced that it will build what it calls “Korean Air and Missile Defense” through local development of M-SAM (medium-range surface-to-air missiles) and L-SAM (long-range surface-to-air missiles).But South Korea and the US are also hurrying to set up a system that would enable detection and tracking information of missiles launched by North Korea to be shared in real time to facilitate the effective interception of those missiles. This would mean linking South Korea and American missile defense by means of sharing information. Such steps would naturally cause South Korea to move toward participating in US missile defense, some argue.

There’s virtually no possibility of a trilateral military alliance forming between South Korea, the US and Japan. Given popular sentiment in South Korea, it’s hard to imagine a military alliance being signed with Japan.  [Hankyoreh]

You can read more at the link, but I always find it interesting how many in the ROK treat the Japanese as the enemy when it is China that economically and diplomatically punished them over the past year.  What makes it even worse is that the deployment of THAAD was to protect South Korea from a threat the Chinese helped to create in the first place.  You would think there would be mass anti-Chinese protests about this, but the best the ROK has done is a one man protest.  I guess everyone else in South Korea is to busy waiting in line to take their picture with a comfort woman statue.

China Once Again Caught Violating North Korean Sanctions on Coal Imports

Over at One Free Korea has a good posting up showing how yet again the Chinese are cheating on the North Korean coal import ban:

The lesson I’ve learned from this and other, similar episodes is that one should be cautious before believing any highly publicized case of China enforcing sanctions against Pyongyang or applying economic pressure to it. I’ve seen this show enough times to suspect that China has a deliberate media manipulation strategy of making a big deal of enforcing sanctions until reporters lose interest. (……)

Take the coal export cap under UNSCR 2321, which later became a coal ban in UNSCR 2371. Remember August, when China announced that it was halting coal imports from North Korea? We’ve since learned that this is yet another case of China initially complying with an obligation, only to resume its cheating as soon as reporters looked the other way. The flaw in this strategy is that nowadays, too many reporters don’t look the other way for long. The sharp-eyed crew at NK News has been especially diligent about spotting North Korean bulk carriers at Chinese coal terminals, but this time, I’ll credit VOA.  [One Free Korea]

You can read the rest at the link, but the Chinese are not even trying to hide their cheating considering they imported 509,000 tons of coal last month. It is pretty clear the Chinese government feels they will not be held accountable for cheating on the coal ban and they are probably right.

China Decides to Move On from Dispute With South Korea Over THAAD Deployment

Via a reader tip, as many people expected the Chinese government has finally decided to move on from their dispute with South Korea over the THAAD deployment:

A diplomatic dispute between South Korea and China officially ended on Tuesday, following months of tense relations and economic retaliation triggered by the deployment of a controversial missile defense system.

In statements issued by both countries’ foreign ministries Tuesday, Seoul and Beijing said they recognized the “great importance” of the relationship between the two neighbors.”
Both sides agreed that strengthening exchanges and cooperation between Korea and China would create harmony of interests in both sides, and agreed to resume exchanges and cooperation in all areas as soon as possible,” the statement said.
Relations deteriorated after South Korea announced in July 2016 that it would deploy the US-built Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) defense system to defend against North Korean missile threats.  [CNN]
You can read more at the link, but the objections by the Chinese were always hypocritical and largely in my opinion an attempt to create a wedge issue between the ROK and the US.  Considering that President Moon went all in on the THAAD deployment there was no longer any reason to keep up their objections in the hope of creating a wedge issue in the alliance.  It is in China’s long term interest to separate the US from the ROK and this was an opportunity for them to create a wedge issue that ultimately failed.

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.