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What to Do if North Korea Is to Blame

Coming up with an effective response to the Cheonan incident won't be simple. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Byron C. Linder/Released)

North Korea has a history of aggressive behavior towards the South. So it would not be entirely out of character for it to have ordered an attack on a South Korean ship in retaliation for a naval skirmish last year, as some are alleging (including a North Korean defector).

If it becomes clear that North Korea’s top leaders ordered this attack, with a probable death toll of 46 sailors, the South Korean public will demand a forceful response from President Lee Myung-bak. Since the Cheonan was sunk nearly four weeks ago, the issue has been on the front pages of all the major South Korean papers every day. The population is stirred up.

Waiting to respond was the responsible thing to do; we don’t yet have definitive knowledge that this was a North Korean attack. But waiting is also raising the stakes for Lee’s government.

The dangers of striking back militarily are obvious. The North Korean side, which is denying it had anything to do with the original incident, could retaliate and set off a cascade of events ending in a regional war. North Korea’s conventional weapons and Seoul’s proximity to the North make this a very deadly prospect.

My sense is that the best way to respond would be, in public, to work to catalyze the natural changes resulting from aggressive North Korean behavior. And in private, Seoul and Washington should look at ways to hit back that will send a message to the Kim Jong-il regime without provoking undue pressure from North Korea’s elite to escalate the situation.

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China, Press, U.S. Policy »

[16 April 2010, Comments Off on China’s Approach to Iran (Radio Interview), Tags: , , , , , , , ]

Media: Voice of America.

Subjects: Chinese interests in the Middle East, the China-Iran economic relationship, Iran, Iran’s nuclear program, and differing Chinese and U.S. foreign policy priorities.

Length: 2:43.

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China »

Social Stability and the Legacy of Tiananmen Square
[9 April 2010, Comments Off on Toppled Government in Kyrgyzstan Raises Uncomfortable Memories for Beijing, Tags: , , , , , , , ]

Most commentary on the April 7th protests and apparent collapse of Kyrgyzstan’s government has focused on the Kyrgyz political situation, the failure of the 2005 Tulip Revolution, (former?) president Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s autocratic behavior, and the roles of the United States and Russia.

But I want to turn readers’ attention to the relevance of this event for China. And there could even be serious implications for U.S. global economic and political priorities.

This week’s events in Kyrgyzstan parallel, in some ways, China’s own Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. Those were also a fairly spontaneous, nation-wide movement responding to both political repression and rising prices. In both 1989 China and 2010 Kyrgyzstan, many policemen and soldiers refused to attack their countrymen. Both culminated in violence in the capital (though the Chinese student protest movement, unlike the Kyrgyz opposition, was unarmed and peaceful).

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India »

Frustration of Foreign Companies in China Might Be a Boon for India–But Only If India is Ready
[1 April 2010, Comments Off on China’s Tense Business Climate Could Benefit India, Tags: , , , , , , ]

Integrated auto manufacturing facility near Chennai, India*

From the Indian perspective, the recent downtown in China’s business friendliness to foreign companies is good news. Some companies are beginning to question whether they have too many eggs in the China basket.

Right next door to China is another vibrant economy, with relatively stronger domestic spending, a younger population, and–within just 15 years–what is expected to become the world’s largest population, larger than China’s.

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