Thursday, May 11, 2017

Make North Korea a Problem China Wants to Solve

China may be the best bet to put North Korea's nuclear ambitions under control, but is China likely to do that?

I hoped that the Trump notion of bribing China with trade concessions to deal with North Korea might work. Perhaps not:

A few years ago, while attending a track 2.0 dialogue on U.S.-China relations, I listened as a Chinese scholar made an observation that has always stuck with me. When it comes to North Korea, the scholar explained: “We [China] don’t like the status-quo, a North Korea that wants the most powerful weapons on the planet -- nuclear weapons -- who points them at our top trading partners in Asia and eventually America. But it could get much worse, as crazy as that sounds.”

And remember, while China fears the results of a war to stop North Korea, if North Korea uses nukes it will likely be against foes of China like South Korea, Japan, or America. How bad is that from their point of view, really?

So if China won't solve America's (and Japan's and South Korea's) North Korea problem because the problem isn't bad enough from China's point of view, perhaps we need to make a problem that China does care about.

We could quietly let it be known that America will be willing to help South Korea and Japan to each match North Korean nuclear weapons warhead for warhead to deter North Korea.

I suspect that the possibility that Japan and South Korea will have nuclear arms (and if they go nuclear, Vietnam and Taiwan and perhaps others will see a green light--or at least an opportunity to get lost in the outrage directed at Japan and South Korea--to go nuclear) would be important enough to get China interested in solving a nuclear proliferation problem among potential foes of China.

Is that outcome worse enough for China to act against North Korea, as crazy as that might sound?

And maybe instead of the carrying out the tentative solutions that China sees as backfiring that are outlined in that article, China goes for the "if you strike a king, kill him" approach by sending in an army to take Pyongyang and put a friendly autocrat in charge who will end the nuclear program.

I'm not eager to have Chinese forces in North Korea, but I'm far less eager to have a nuclear North Korea that can sell nukes to Iran.

If we (America, South Korea, and Japan) come to an agreement with China on limits to Chinese force composition and deployment in North Korea, we can work something out.

UPDATE: Related background from Strategypage on China.