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China, Miscellaneous »

Consequences of the Cheonan Attack

U.S. Navy photograph by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Richard J. Brunson

On Friday, the UN Security Council came out with a weak statement that failed to assign blame for the attack and sinking of a South Korean naval ship in March. China and Russia declined to participate in an international inquiry, watered down the Security Council statement, and now willfully look the other way as North Korea continues denying its involvement. The Council’s statement mentioned the results of the internationally-backed inquiry that showed a North Korean torpedo was responsible, but that was all.

Frankly, Korean president Lee Mung-bak failed to take advantage of the considerable leverage he had to press China to take a harder line against North Korean provocations. Lee made the understandable decision to reassure investors by ruling out military retaliation early on. But in doing so, he also took away what appears to be the only thing that would change China’s calculus on North Korea: the possibility of major escalation.

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China, Miscellaneous »

Beijing Bails Out Kim Jong-il, and Earlier Than Usual
[3 May 2010, Comments Off on North Korea’s Chinese Buddies, Tags: , , , , ]

With “a battalion of security guards and female dining companions” aboard his train, North Korea’s leader arrived in China today en-route to Beijing. Kim Jong-il finds himself increasingly under pressure for the sinking of South Korea’s Cheonan in March, isolated by international sanctions, and still reeling from having angered much of North Korea’s elite with last year’s currency fiasco.

So Kim would probably be grateful for just about anything Beijing will give him. And reports suggest China has lots of goodies to offer, in exchange for access to minerals and ports along the Sea of Japan.

China has attracted well-deserved criticism for ignoring the Cheonan ship incident for nearly a month. Now, after finally meekly expressing sympathy for an event that caught China (and the region) by surprise–an event that suggested North Korean brinkmanship could be getting more serious–why is Beijing going out of its way to help Kim?

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Miscellaneous, U.S. Policy »

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 »

[17 November 2009, Comments Off on The U.S.-China Relationship (Radio Interview), Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ]

Media: Icelandic National Broadcasting Service – Radio 1 “Spegillinn.”

Subjects: President Obama’s trip to Shanghai and Beijing, and the U.S.-China relationship.

Length: 5:42.

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China, Miscellaneous, Publications, U.S. Policy »

[9 January 2008, Comments Off on Why China Doesn’t Want a Nuclear North Korea, Tags: , , , , , , ]

Date: 9 January 2008.

Publication: Far Eastern Economic Review.

Author: Daniel Michaeli.

North Korea’s nuclear program is a danger not only to the United States, but also to China. A proliferation crisis, particularly in the Middle East, would carry consequences compromising the delicately balanced domestic economic and social stability that China’s leaders strive to maintain. In order to preserve its own interests, China must prevent such a crisis from occurring.

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