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China's looming North Korea problem

A recent article in Time magazine reminds readers that the issue of the Cheonan is still with us. China's leadership probably wishes otherwise.

The Cheonan was a South Korean corvette (small warship) that was split in two and sunk to the bottom of the ocean this March, taking with it the lives of 46 sailors. An exhaustive investigation, aided by Western nations, found that the Cheonan had been struck by a North Korean torpedo.

The rancor and rhetoric that followed brought relations between North and South Korea to an even more dangerous standoff than usual. Caught between the two was China. Beijing is the North's biggest, and almost only, backer in the world. At the same time, China has built ever-more lucrative trade ties with the South.

For a story I wrote in May, one of the analysts I spoke with underlined the difficulties the situation presents to Beijing:

“China is diplomatically boxed in," said Malcolm Cook, the East Asia program director at the Lowy Institute, an Australian policy-research organization.

On one hand, there are decades of close relations with North Korea and a diplomatic stance defined by such alliances, Cook said. On the other, he said, China is now "too large and too influential globally ... to be able to hang on to that."

What to do? So far, China has been able to avoid taking much of a stand on the issue, saying that the South Korean investigation was not conclusive or convincing. Russia has followed a similar line, accompanied by press leaks that Russian investigators think the Cheonan hit a mine that was floating in the water.

But Seoul is apparently getting close to making the contents of its report public. Time magazine reports having seen a 286-page draft that seems to convincingly discount every scenario other than the North Koreans blasting the Cheonan with a torpedo -- a strike that certainly qualifies as an act of war.

If that report is released publicly, and if its findings hold, the pressure on China will ratchet up considerably to do something about North Korea. Such a scenario would be a serious test of China's foreign policy, one that some critics suggest has not caught up with the country's growing economic clout.

The implications go beyond the Korean peninsula.

There have recently been increased signs of the neighborhood's uneasiness with China, accompanied by increased signs of the neighborhood’s cooperation with the United States.

Japan's government reversed course on pressuring America to close a base at Okinawa. South Korea has staged large joint exercises with the U.S. Navy. Vietnam and the United States are putting together a nuclear cooperation deal. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seemed to find a friendly audience from many regional players -- but decidedly not Beijing -- when she recently suggested that China's claims to the South China Sea are not indisputable.

Of course, those developments are not all a direct result of China's relations with North Korea, and such cooperation is always subject to shift. And China's economic influence is vast.

It is clear, though, that if China were to keep silent in the wake of the report's release to the world, there would be damage to both its regional and global standing.

 As China's influence continues to expand, there will be many moments when the entire world looks to Beijing to see what it has to say. This is going to be one of them.

 

 

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Johnnymorales

Regarding your quote from Thomas Cook - I'm amazed you missed the multi-layered irony in his assumptions.

Since when did becoming a superpower mean you could no longer indulge whims to prop up nations that support you, because they are loathed internationally.

Many could easily say with the rise to near total control of the Ultra-right the US-Israel nation is very similar. This is not my personal opinion, but Israel is probably the least popular nation internationally at least on the face of it, but that doesn't stop the USA, not even its development of nukes changed our friendship.

The fact that you thought he made sense is probably the reason why you miss the obvious reason why PRChina supports NKorea as it does.

It serves as the near perfect distraction for Western Attention on so many levels.

All too many actions on the part of PRChina have been overlooked ignored in order to gain their cooperation in reigning in NKorea - to little effect, but still we try.

The actions of NKorea only do NOT hurt PRChina in the least. So doing something about NKorea is strictly done on "what's in it for PRChina" basis.

The notion that China is to involved now to be involved with rogue nations - please the history of the USA since the end of WWII is full of US friendships with rogue dictatorships that were loathed by the rest of the world (and NO I am NOT talking about Israel)

We seem oblivious to the dormant border conflicts of China's recent history with India, with Russia, with Vietnam and a couple of others.

To the Chinese N. Korea is a secure border. This is invaluable to a nation that sees itself surrounded with disputes.

Disputes it hopes to one day address again and when it does they want NKorea as it is today. A neutral or Western leaning united Korea would be a far inferior entity.

As China grows in power we can expect it to dismiss or ignore more and more of our concerns.

It may have hired out its people as low wage laborers to the world, but the PRChina becoming a cooperative nation working hand in hand with the West to protect Western interests was NEVER and will never be a part of their policies. If they align, or if they get something substantial out of it, you can count on China to do something we like.

Otherwise, we should get used to hearing "talk to the hand" in Chinese of course LOL

LetsTry Reason

To the “outside” world intellectuals who don’t read Korean,

This is a remarkable story of people – the governed(although they are in theory supposed to be the actual governor in democracy), not their government - making difference in the world (history).

1. Compare and contrast.
“More enlightened” American people, Congress and media; Bush; WMD; War (and huge suffering),
(http://whitehouser.com/war/CIA-confirms-Bush-WMD-lie )
and,
“Supposedly less so enlightened” Korean people; Korean President Lee; Cheonan; prevention of War (so far).
(I am including among ‘the Korean people’ the Korean-Americans.)

2. Also remarkable is that the “inside” Korean people braved the government prosecution.
Caveat: Under the current South Korean regime, South Korean citizens can be sued for defamation by their own government officials, and defamation in South Korea is a crime (as well as a civil offense) prosecuted by the government’s own centrally controlled national prosecutors who selectively choose or choose not whom to prosecute.
Recently, Shin Sang-cheol, “an expert placed on the JIG [Joint Investigation Group] by” the National Assembly, got (criminally) sued for defamation by a government official for expressing disagreement over the current South Korean regime’s version of the Cheonan Incident. (http://www.zimbio.com/Mizuho+Fukushima/articles/BvIMjqn_oLw/South+Korean+Investigation+Team+Member+Mr )

(South Korean people’s firsthand knowledge about the pro-government polls is that they are ridiculously overinflated.
A proof: war-fear-mongering South Korean President Lee Myung-bak got unexpectedly humiliated on the June 2 election by the “Supposedly less so enlightened” Korean people,
when “survey conducted by the major daily [pro-government]Dong-A Ilbo and the Korea Research Center from May 24 to 26[7-days-before] forecast[ed] that Oh would beat Han by 20.8 percent.”
Actual election result: 0.6 percent(=”47.4 percent”-”46.8 percent.”)
Source: http://joongangdaily.joins.com/article/view.asp?aid=2921960 )

3. A list of early English publications on Questions on the Cheonan Incident and the Power of South Korean Netizens can be found at http://korea.true.ws (by LetsTry Reason) and newer writings at http://letstryreason.wordpress.com .

Also, look at: “the U.S, South Korea, the U.K, Canada and Australia, but not Sweden [NOT Sweden], contributed to the second-statement findings [claiming that North Korea might be guilty]” – “Five reasons why the the JIG’s 5-page statement cannot be considered scientific and objective, nor … ‘international’”
http://japanfocus.org/-JOHN-MCGLYNN/3372 ;
“Russian Probe Sees No North Korea Hand In Cheonan Sinking! Russia Says Sea Mine Sunk Cheonan”
http://socioecohistory.wordpress.com/2010/07/28/russian-probe-sees-no-north-korea-hand-in-cheonan-sinking/ ;
http://willyloman.wordpress.com/2010/06/30/pcc-772-cheonan-south-korean-government-admits-the-deception-and-then-lies-about-it/ ;
http://nature.com/news/2010/080710/full/news.2010.343.html ;
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-korea-torpedo-20100724,0,4196801,full.story

4. Compare and contrast.
9/11; Al-Qaeda; brags We did it(, was not wrong, not sorry about it and we will do it again).
Cheonan; North Korea; brags We didn’t do it (therefore, presumably, was wrong, sorry about it and we will not do it). (Why the difference?)
Crime and punishment. If we are taking consequentialist moral philosophy, and if the utilitarian utility of punishment is to prevent future crime, then punishment serves little or no purpose (maybe to others but not)to North Korea who says ‘We didn’t do it,’ because either (a) the North didn’t do it, therefore the punishment will be outrageous injustice,
or (b) the North did do it, but ‘We didn’t do it’ basically implies ‘We will not do it.’
(This particular ‘it’ hardly gives the North any payoff.)
*If you don’t get scared of us, how can We become the terrorist, and if you don’t know We did it, how can you get scared of us?

5. Representative democracy is not pure democracy. (Pure)Direct democracy of a nation-size is now (or becoming) possible, through recent developments in computer science and technology, making secure private Internet-voting, democratic online discussions, cheap instantaneous micro referendum and freedom of choice to vote directly on an issue or use an agent possible.
The science (computer science) should finally make the people, the governed, the actual de facto governor in democracy.

6. I take this honor of hereby formally asking the folks in Norway to consider awarding a Nobel Peace Prize to the “Supposedly less so enlightened” Korean people including myself,
who in early days, among various activities, proposed the “outside” world contact initiative for the Cheonan peace, providing email addresses of all the foreign embassies in Korea, U.N., Hillary, Obama, and the foreign media.

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