Is Beijing Using North Korea again?

Apparently out of the blue, Stalinist regime in northern Korea shelled Yeonpeyong Island in the democratic part of the country (a.k.a. South Korea). The rest of world is trying to come to terms with the shock. There are at least two death as of 8AM EST. The White House “strongly condemned” (MSN India) the attack, but hasn’t had much time to react beyond posturing.

Analysts are fishing for explanations, but the most popular one is that this has something to do with the power struggle within the regime.  As Iain Martin put it, shelling a South Korean island is “what passes for a campaign ad in North Korean politics.”

I’m not so sure, or to be more precise, I don’t think that’s the only reason. As much as people would like to think the regime in charge of northern Korea is a lone wolf unable to control or even understand, that regime is wholly dependent on the Chinese Communist Party for its survival. Moreover, the CCP prefers its allies and satellites take full blame or credit for their antics, as it turns Beijing into the “good police state” and enable them to extract more concessions from the democratic world (this is why the ChiComs’ closest ally in the Middle East is the Iranian mullahcracy, but I digress).

In fact, there’s almost no way a move like this wouldn’t get green-lighted by the CCP; keep in mind, the Communists have even gone so far as to make a historical claim to northern Korea as Chinese territory, in part to make it clear who’s boss and in part to lay the groundwork for a possible annexation if the Stalinist regime becomes more trouble than its worth.

So, this begs the question: why did the CCP let this happen?  For that, we have to look at the last year in eastern Asia.

Amidst the European bailouts, the bizzare “reset” with Russia, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the numerous domestic issues the decided the November elections, little attention has been paid to the western Pacific.  However, events there have been dramatic, and dramatically unexpected.

It began when the CCP tried to declare the South China Sea as its own lake.  As expected, numerous nations in Southeast Asia cried foul. Not so expectedly, the United States – led by the American apologist President and the Secretary of State whose husband was arguably the Communists’ best friend in the White House – responded, essentially, “No.”

One can only imagine the shock in Zhongnanhai from that.

Perhaps the Communists believed that this was mere posturing for the voters.  That notion disappeared with the President’s post-election tour of Asia (India, Indonesia, South Korea, and Japan). It could have been called the China Containment Tour. Now we’re hearing elected officials inside and outside the Administration slanging the CCP for their deliberately devalued currency, and while the criticisms stem from economic confusion rather than geopolitical clarity, that’s a distinction without a difference to Hu Jintao et al.

In short, the Chinese Communist regime has watched, likely in subdued horror, as Barack Obama’s government moved – haltingly, and with some stumbles, but unmistakably – towards the most anti-Communist Asia policy in twenty years. It has been, almost literally, Nixon-goes-to-China in reverse.

So, now the CCP – and the rest of us – will see if the Administration’s newfound and quasi-accidental policy will come with newfound resolve. It won’t be as easy as it sounds initially. In Southeast Asia, the President’s backbone was widely applauded, especially in Indonesia (in an even more painful irony for the CCP, Obama’s time there may be driving his policy in the region).  Japan, by contrast, has a center-left government with a more accomodationist policy towards Beijing (although South Korea does not).

This is a critical moment.  If Obama follows precedent, i.e., comes hat-in-hand to the CCP to enlist its help in “controlling” Kim Jong-il and his would-be successors, then things will come back to normal in East Asia (and that’s not good).  However, if the President follows his instincts from Southeast Asia, it could dramatically alter the global balance – and in America’s favor.

Nixon’s fervent anti-Communist history made him practically the only American politician who could reach out to the CCP.  Conversely, Obama’s left-wing history may make him the best-equipped American leader to take the CCP on.  I believe the ChiComs condoned this incident in the hope to prevent the above from happening.  Time will tell if they were right; if not, the Chinese people may get a surprising boost in their fight to take their country back from the Communist regime that enslaves them.

Cross-posted to the China e-Lobby

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5 Responses to Is Beijing Using North Korea again?

  1. Ken Reynolds says:

    This is a very interesting and informative critique. I do have to add though that the political nonsense in here (“posturing – what else was he supposed to do at 4 am? ignore it? if he did that, the subversive right-wing would call him a do-nothing president) (knocking Clinton – isnt that mixing up other nonsense – referring to Mrs. Clinton’s husband- he did keep us out of war). It will be interesting to hear what th subversive right-wing hosts on hate radio today will condemn Obama before he has anything to do. As they might know, Obama’s first priority s/b to keep us out of war.

  2. D.J. McGuire says:

    Uh, Ken? This was my verbiage: “The White House . . . hasn’t had much time to react beyond posturing.”

    Sounds like violent agreement to me.

    There are several things Obama can do short of war: bring back SEATO to formalize alliances in Southeast Asia (it could even include Vietnam now), beef up military presence in the region, implement a currency-corrective tariff to reorient our imports away from the CCP and toward our allies in the region (Japan, India, Indonesia, etc.), some level of higher diplomatic recognition for Taiwan (I’d back a full-blown exchange of ambassadors, but I’ll admit I’m in small company there), military support for same, etc.

  3. Ken Reynolds says:

    I know it was your verbiage!!!I read it in a negative sense!! You do know how hate radio will be all over the Adm today no matter what Obama does. You obviously know a lot about the issue and about all i can do is read it – your comments are very interesting……….

  4. Cytotoxic says:

    Wow, DJ, those are some really really bad ideas. America, on the eve of its bankruptcy, should F@^* up its trade and throw military dead weight around to look tough to fight an ‘enemy’ that is the US’s biggest creditor and increasingly important trade partner, so our ‘allies’ can continue to spend as little on their militaries as possible? Um no.

    Further, I am not in the least convinced that China has any control over NK. Maybe they used to, but that got out of hand. If the Chicoms have any brains they will realize that Kim is a liability.

    And I also don’t believe for a second that the Chicoms are intimidated by a standard tour of SE Asia. Why would they be afraid of grandstanding by an increasingly desperate president of an increasingly failed superpower? What’s the worst that America can do to them? Declare bankruptcy?

    A much better idea than your ideas would be to sell out Taiwan in exchange for Chinese precipitation of regime change in NK. Our government could still howl if China invades Taiwan, but no military involvement from us, which is best anyway. Failing that we should just bomb NK to bits.

  5. Ken Reynolds says:

    Is it true that your main man, Sarah, referred to North Korea as one of our alllies in an interview 2 nights ago?

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