Time is nigh for Bei­jing to cut oil life­line to Kim

The Weekend Australian - - WORLD - ROWAN CALLICK

In shoot­ing another mis­sile over Ja­pan yes­ter­day, the ever-laugh­ing North Korean “Supreme Leader” Kim Jong-un showed his con­tempt for those who would seek to re­strict his nu­clear am­bi­tions.

So much for the UN and its per­fid­i­ous US-pro­moted sanc­tions. So much for for­mer oc­cu­pier Ja­pan, its ex­is­tence is no longer needed. And so much for Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s hopes of a calm, glo­ri­ous el­e­va­tion at the Com­mu­nist Party congress in a month.

It’s hard to know whether Kim sim­ply couldn’t care less about all this, or he cares so much that he is cal­cu­lat­edly seek­ing to un­der­mine the above.

The ef­fect is much the same.

Each new test of a mis­sile or a nu­clear bomb seems to un­der­line the ra­pid­ity of Py­ongyang’s ad­vances.

Ob­servers in Aus­tralia and other Western coun­tries prob­a­bly feel that this per­sis­tent test­ing is es­pe­cially hu­mil­i­at­ing for the US, which has long led the at­tempts to con­strain North Korea.

It is, and that ef­fect is mul­ti­plied by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s hy­per­bolic tweets. But it is be­com­ing es­pe­cially prob­lem­atic for China.

Kim is not pro­vid­ing a shred of hope that he has any in­ter­est in any res­o­lu­tion short of his regime be­ing ac­cepted as nu­clear-armed and wor­thy of re­spect.

Rus­sia’s Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin is right when he says that North Kore­ans will eat grass rather than give up their nukes. Kim him­self won’t be eating grass, but he’ll go to any length to en­sure that his serfs do if nec­es­sary. His regime has pinned its fu­ture so ex­clu­sively on its nukes that if they are taken away it will surely fall. Such prophe­cies be­come self­ful­fill­ing if re­peated and am­pli­fied as this one has been.

Bei­jing is right that it bears the brunt of any sanc­tions. That’s another rea­son to dis­cuss with the US and South Korea about be­ing pre­pared to step in to the North at some stage — po­ten­tially avert­ing uni­fi­ca­tion and com­plete regime col­lapse while help­ing se­cure a less nu­clear-ob­sessed suc­ces­sor to the Kim dy­nasty.

China has held back its big weapon of cut­ting the crude oil “Friend­ship Pipe­line”, but it’s of lit­tle value if never used.

The tim­ing is ter­ri­ble with the party congress so close, but China’s in­ter­na­tional pres­tige is at stake. The US is fast arm­ing its friends and al­lies in the re­gion, in­clud­ing South Korea, Ja­pan and Tai­wan, with anti-mis­sile and other new weapons.

If Kim tests another nuke, these three might well con­sider go­ing nu­clear them­selves.

Xi has to con­sider play­ing those high cards he has held back, if he wants to ce­ment China’s re­gional pres­tige. If that time is not here yet, it’s very fast ap­proach­ing as Kim rushes head­long for se­cu­rity and glory, or the op­po­sites.


A US Air Force E-3 Air­borne Warn­ing and Con­trol Sys­tem takes off at Osan US Air Base in Pyeong­taek, South Korea yes­ter­day

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