Friday, April 14, 2017

So How Interesting are These Times?

The movement of American ships toward North Korea is a convenient cover for Chinese military deployments to the border with North Korea if--and I have no way of knowing if that speculation is correct--China intends to solve the North Korea nuclear problem.


China has ordered its military to be on nationwide alert, in addition to areas near the North Korea border, as tensions escalate on the peninsula.

The Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy, a nongovernmental organization in Hong Kong, said Beijing has ordered troops at all five military "regions" to maintain preparedness because of the situation in North Korea, according to Oriental Daily News in Hong Kong.

Most focus is on the single American carrier heading toward North Korea, but 150,000 Chinese troops near North Korea with more alerted (including airborne forces in the interior, I assume) are more significant.

They are more significant if China has a green light from America to change the regime in Pyongyang. But I don't know if my sheer speculation is remotely accurate.

With most of North Korea's military deployed to face South Korea, China would have a good shot at bridging the Yalu, driving down the main road along the west coast to Pyongyang, and fanning out from there.

Chinese airborne troops could land ahead of the overland offensive to secure the path (in a Market-Garden operation if the Chinese are confident that the North Korean military won't hit them hard by resisting "fraternal assistance."

A coup--even one with little hope of success if it throws the government into confusion--while the Chinese invasion kicks off might aid in preventing that kind of reaction.

The Chinese would likely take the nuclear test site in the northeast, too.

Does a test mean China would go in soon to prevent the test--and avoid the test being set off with Chinese troops on top of it? Or would China require the test as pretext before acting?

And note that in this case of Chinese intervention, the deployment of American forces and possible coordination of American, Japanese, and South Korean defenses would be for the purpose of guarding against a spasm of North Korean missile attacks directed south and east at South Korea and Japan.

That defense would include missile defenses, strikes against North Korean missile launching sites, and potentially a ground move to carve out a no-launch zone to protect Seoul from bombardment.

Oh, and there is this:

The United States dropped a massive GBU-43 bomb, the largest non-nuclear bomb it has ever used in combat, in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday against a series of caves used by Islamic State militants, the military said.

With a nod to Joe Biden, while this MOAB (mother of all bombs) was literally dropped on Afghanistan, it was figuratively dropped on North Korea (Russians on the ground helping the Taliban might be a bit nervous, too).

Kim Jong-Un immediately requested a deeper bunker.

As impressive as that bomb is, a lot of little booms are the real threat to North Korea.

Depending on the risk of contact with Chinese forces and the state of North Korea's military once China invades, it might even include a joint South Korean-American drive on North Korea's nuclear facilities.

This is just a scenario, of course. Sheer speculation. A few dots connected into a picture that is reliant on my imagination more than the quality of the dots and their linkage.

Still, if China is persuaded to deal with North Korea out of fear that Trump will harm Chinese trade--which is crucial to economic growth and maintaining popular legitimacy for the Chinese Communist Party to govern China--we may have an example of that saying "only Trump can go to TPP."

I'm not a fan of Chinese control of North Korea. But a nuclear North Korea is worse. Hopefully we have an agreement on Chinese military deployment limits to keep South Korea and Japan safe.

UPDATE: This is interesting:

The U.S. is prepared to launch a preemptive strike with conventional weapons against North Korea should officials become convinced that North Korea is about to follow through with a nuclear weapons test, multiple senior U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News.

So the good meeting between Trump and Xi is good.

If China takes down Kim Jong-Un, we avoid a crisis with China by saying China is taking care of the problem.

And if America does the job (hopefully with South Korea and Japan on board), China has less reason to fear this is part of American hostility to China.

The article says we have a couple destroyers armed with cruise missiles, heavy bombers at Guam, and a carrier on the way.

Assume also bombers from the continental United States, 3 of our 4 cruise missile submarines, and land-based aircraft in South Korea and Japan.

Plus whatever the South Koreans and Japanese throw in.

Oh, and of course China might simply persuade North Korea's nutball ruler to cancel the nuclear test and wait for a better opportunity.


U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will travel to South Korea on Sunday in what his aides said was a sign of the U.S. commitment to its ally in the face of rising tensions over North Korea's nuclear program.

Am I thinking too much to wonder if Pence is essentially serving as a guarantee that any military action that America leads South Korea and Japan in delivering will be effective because our vice president will be a sort of hostage to lack of thoroughness?

UPDATE: From China:

China said on Friday tension over North Korea had to be stopped from reaching an "irreversible and unmanageable stage" as a U.S. aircraft carrier group steamed toward the region amid fears the North may conduct a sixth nuclear weapons test.

I haven't felt that the Korean peninsula is this close to conflict since 1994 during the Clinton administration. After the fact I learned that my feeling really was accurate because the administration was ready to use force--until the faux deal got North Korea to pretend to halt their nuclear drive while we pretended to believe them.

So if we really are moving toward a strike campaign--this will be no one-off overnight that we read about in the morning--China has the option removing America's need to lead this attack by acting like the regional power they claim to be and halting the pending North Korean nuclear test (kicking the problem down the road); or invading North Korea and installing a new government more willing to act reasonably (which demonstrates more clearly the power of China to run their neighborhood).

Otherwise China gets to watch America solve the problem of China's pet attack dog that is starting to frighten China with the implications of a nuclear-armed North Korea.

Or worse from China's (and our point of view, but at least it buys time before we are under threat) point of view, fail to solve the problem even with a strike campaign.

So yeah, my pucker factor is uncomfortably high going into this weekend.

UPDATE: More from China:

“The United States and South Korea and North Korea are engaging in tit for tat, with swords drawn and bows bent, and there have been storm clouds gathering,” China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, said in Beijing, according to Xinhua, the state news agency.

“We urge all sides to no longer engage in mutual provocation and threats, whether through words or deeds, and don’t push the situation to the point where it can’t be turned around and gets out of hand,” Mr. Wang said after meeting with his visiting French counterpart, Jean-Marc Ayrault, according to Xinhua.

“No matter who it is, if they let war break out on the peninsula, they must shoulder that historical culpability and pay the corresponding price for this,” Mr. Wang said.

The North Koreans aren't helping matters:

The North Korean military issued a statement on Friday threatening to attack major American military bases in South Korea, as well as the presidential Blue House, warning that it could annihilate those targets “within minutes.”

Well, China could solve--or at least postpone--the problem and avoid this dire risk.

UPDATE: China wants Russia to help?

What? Is Russia going to advise North Korea to simply deny they are pursuing nukes regardless of the evidence the way Russia denies invading Ukraine and Assad denies gassing anybody?

UPDATE: This would indicate that threats of attack aren't serious:

[The Trump administration] settled on a policy that appears to represent continuity.

The administration's emphasis, the officials said, will be on increasing pressure on Pyongyang with the help of China, North Korea's dominant trade partner. The officials weren't authorized to speak publicly on the results of the policy review and requested anonymity.

Knowing that lessens the effect of the pressure, of course.

The first rule in Bluff Club is don't talk about Bluff Club.