Time the World Asked China to Rein Kim In
It is time to call China’s bluff on North Korea. Beijing has been remarkably quiet as US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s premier Kim Jong-un have exchanged apocalyptic threats. Instead of using its considerable influence with Pyongyang to de-escalate the situation to prevent a military confrontation, Beijing has directed its ire at Japan and South Korea, both American allies. A war between the US and North Korea would be disastrous for the region. Beijing needs to get off the bench. Its support for the recent UN resolution on sanctions against North Korea is not enough. North Korea is, for all practical purposes, China’s client state. The tougher UN sanctions and loss of trade with countries like India will increase Pyongyang’s dependence on Beijing. While a voluble North Korea with its threats of nuclear-enabled missiles gives China strategic leverage, as the only restraining influence on Kim, outright war would harm China, too. Beijing needs to accept that the threat of military strikes is now a credible one, and tell Pyongyang to pipe down. That would open up the possibility of a creative diplomatic solution. Posing as a potential threat gets Pyongyang and its patron bargaining power, but to turn an actual threat is to get stomped on. Amilitary face-off will not be limited to the US and North Korea. History has demonstrated that China will not sit out a war in the Korean peninsula, and US allies South Korea and Japan will bear the brunt. With Australia’s Malcolm Turnbull pledging support to the US, the implications for the Asia-Pacific region are immense. A diplomatic solution that puts a check on North Korea’s weapons programme works to India’s benefit as well, given Pyongyang’s readiness to pass parcels with radioactive markings from Beijing to Islamabad.