By John Kusumi
Wars can easily start from miscalculation, and as I look at the Korean peninsula, I believe that somebody miscalculated.
News brings word of two matters- – (a.) On November 23, 2010, North and South Korea had an exchange of artillery fire. Who fired first is immaterial, but a South Korean military official said, “We were conducting usual military drills and our test shots were aimed toward the west, not the north.” Irrespective of that detail, North Korea took it upon themselves to shell the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong, killing at least two civilians and two military personnel. It is also believed that South Korea returned fire.
As reported in Australian news (ABC News),
“According to North Korean media the country’s leader Kim Jong-il visited the artillery base which attacked the South just hours before this week’s shelling started.
“The report said he was accompanied by his son and heir Kim Jong-un.
“If true, it would suggest that orders for the artillery attack came right from the top.
“Even if not true, the report shows that North Korea’s propaganda machine is placing the country’s leader and his son at the front line and in command.”
ABC News also reported the number of shells: 50 fired by the North, 80 fired by the South. And, it indicated that the North is demanding a redraw of the maritime border between the two nations.
–On Tuesday evening, Chinese dissidents were speculating that there is political maneuvering in the North. Yet, let’s continue onwards to the second news item- – (b.) On November 24, 2010, it was publicized that the U.S. Pentagon / Obama administration is sending the USS George Washington, a Navy aircraft carrier, to join wargames with South Korea in the Yellow Sea (which is west of the Korean peninsula and coastal for China), with its arrival and commencement of exercises slated for Sunday, November 28.
It may be an immaterial factoid to note that the exercises were pre-planned, in the pipeline prior to the island shelling incident, and that the exercises are due to end Wednesday, December 1. Factoids aside, it very much appears that the U.S. is flexing its muscle in the region. Whether welcome or not, those are the optics at hand. On Sunday, the aircraft carrier will be the hardware at hand. And by Wednesday, the “exercises” will have outcomes at hand.
What can be said is, “Welcome to the brink of war.” And, welcome to advice from the pro-democracy China Support Network, a very “Generation X*” group (*also known in China as the Tiananmen generation).
At my CSN group, we are on the public record having zero tolerance for communists, dictators, tyrants, and thugs. When I think of the governmental regimes of China and North Korea, I think, “A pox on both of their houses.” At this time, it is worth reviewing some prior advocacy.
2003: Just say no to North Korea
In 2003, “Just say no to North Korea” was an article jointly authored by Tiananmen dissident Zhou Yongjun and myself. At this time, my co-author is unavailable — he’s in a Chinese jail, serving his third term as a political prisoner. For a one line digression, the CSN demands that Communist China immediately release Zhou Yongjun, along with other high-profile prisoners Liu Xiaobo, Gao Zhisheng, and Wang Bingzhang.
2006: Treachery will get you nowhere
Publishing in 2006, I wrote that “were I George W. Bush, I might now be enunciating five words for Kim Jong Il: ‘Treachery will get you nowhere.’ If any offers were on the table for North Korea, it is time to take those offers off the table.” My 2006 advice included the words, “The imperative for freedom knows no exceptions. Efforts for freedom in Asia need to be more than just speeches and lip service.”
2006: Asian dictatorships are a bad thing, and we should oppose them
My bottom line said, “We need a consistent policy about Asian dictatorships. Asian dictatorships are a bad thing, and we should oppose them!”
2006: North Korea must be liberated
We should oppose Asian dictatorships, and at the China Support Network, our narrative carries exactly that tune. My 2006 advice to the Bush administration was accompanied by another article from D.J. McGuire. His title? “North Korea must be liberated.”
1989 – present: China must be liberated
It is worth remembering the point and purpose of the China Support Network. While we do not advocate violence, we do advocate liberation: freedom, democracy, and human rights for mainland China. In addition to being pro-democracy, we are anti-communist human rights campaigners. We make common cause with the dissidents from those lands where a Communist Party still rules: China, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos. Together with Cuba, they are the remaining Communist lands. In each case, the regime is a brutal, totalitarian dictatorship.
2003: National security angles unmasked
The Chinese democracy movement was very visible around the time of 1989’s Tiananmen Square massacre – an occasion when Chinese college students had led an uprising for democracy, and Beijing used its army and live ammunition to storm and retake Tiananmen Square from peaceful, unarmed demonstrators. That brutal crackdown was on world TV at the time, and there is an iconic photograph of one lone man, stopping a line of tanks, that was one of the 20th century’s most sensational moments captured on film. The Tiananmen crackdown was a hideous turn of history, by the hand of evil, and then it was swept under the rug by the George H. Bush administration (and then the Clinton administration, and then the George W. Bush administration).
The China Support Network was a popular cause when it began, but we can understandably feel “swept under the rug” along with the balance of the Chinese democracy movement.
When you are swept under the rug by the U.S. establishment, you get to see what else they are keeping hidden under the rug. With all of the friendliness that U.S. administrations have extended to Communist China in the past 20 years, items “swept under the rug” include U.S. national security and America’s spine with communism. In 2003, CSN republished an article by the Chinese dissident Fang Jue. It comes from Harvard University’s Fairbank Center for East Asian Research. Here is an overview of what “the news” has downplayed:
– In Northeast Asia: China is the main (if not sole) supporter of North Korea. China props up the North Korea regime to create a strategic front in Northeast Asia to tie up the forces of America and its allies.
– In the Taiwan Strait: China’s military threatens Taiwan. This not only cows independence-minded Taiwanese, but also weakens American prestige in Asia. When tension grows in the Taiwan Strait, China uses this as a bargaining chip to persuade America to concede on other issues.
– In Southeast Asia: China’s military encroaches upon disputed islands in the South China Sea in order to punish countries who would align themselves too closely with America. In Southeast Asia China also supports the military dictatorship in Burma. It thus uses aggression to create “allies” or buffers in Southeast Asia that will help it oppose democracy and the West.
– In South Asia: China supports the Pakistan military dictatorship in developing its nuclear and missile programs. The purpose is to encourage Pakistan to distance itself from the West and use Pakistan as a buffer against India, whose success with democracy creates a growing regional competition to China.
– In Central Asia: The new Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a consortium of China, Russia, and other former Soviet republics, wields influence to counterbalance the interests of democratic countries.
– In the Middle East: China supports theocracy and missile development in Iran and proliferates sensitive technology and goods through aid to Syria and Libya. China also supported Iraq’s former dictatorship over a long period of time.
– In Russia: China and Russia cooperate to restrain America from playing too large of a leading role in the world. This cooperation serves mutually to bolster the influence of Russia and China in the international community.
We can thank the dissident Fang Jue for his research paper. Notably, he concludes that American leaders have been missing “an unprecedented historical opportunity to end communism and totalitarianism after the Cold War.” He advocates a “global strategy to transform China into democracy.” When America gets with the program, it will pressure Communist China until it is communist no more.
Let’s return now to 2010…
Welcome back to the brink of war. For the record, as the CSN has advocated pressure on Asia’s communist regimes, we did not advocate a hot, shooting war. What we had in mind was more of a Cold War II. Communist China can and should be treated in likewise manner as Ronald Reagan treated the Soviet Union. Arguably, Beijing has been following a path that suggests they are already in Cold War II, because of the behaviors noted above in the section, “National security angles unmasked.”
But now, it’s necessary to consider the present potential of a hot, shooting war. Make no mistake: the DMZ (demilitarized zone) between North and South Korea is a dividing line. It is the boundary between the free world, on the one hand, and the world of tyranny, on the other hand. That boundary should logically cleve (and hence obviate) the paradigm of globalization. This is where we must choose to stand with the free world and not be snookered by the world of tyranny, led by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party).
Newbies, if reading this, may question why bring China into this, when the combatants on Tuesday were North and South Korea. The answer is that China already is in this. North Korea may be called a client state, or a puppet state, of Communist China. As noted by Fang Jue above, “China is the main (if not sole) supporter of North Korea. China props up the North Korea regime…” Behind the scenes of North Korea, there is China. And for that matter, we can note that South Korea is a client state of the US. Behind the scenes of South Korea, there is the US defense establishment.
Informed sources are saying the same. From D.J. McGuire, “There’s almost no way a move like this wouldn’t get green-lighted by the CCP.” The Epoch Times (ET) cited Chinese and Taiwanese analysts as indicating that Beijing is pulling strings from behind the scenes. Under their headline, “Attack on South Korea an Elaborate Ploy, Analysts Say,” they note that, “A senior media person from Taiwan by the last name Zeng told The Epoch Times in a phone interview, he believes this provocative attack was a deceptive act jointly deployed by the Chinese and North Korean regimes.” ET also quoted Sun Yanjun, a China affairs expert and former professor at Beijing Normal University, saying:
“From my view of the relationship between China, North Korea, and South Korea, the regimes in China and North Korea are military partners, so it is very unlikely that this move came from the motive of North Korea alone.
“The regimes in China and North Korea are currently going through very hard times; they have no other cards to play. They must maintain this tension so they can bargain with the international community.
“The regime in China is currently under a lot of international pressure, including the exchange rate issue and also various internal pressures. It is looking for a way out, to divert the internal conflicts and international pressure.
“The recent Diaoyu Island issue [with Japan] is also an attempt of looking for a way out. But the regimes in China and North Korea are not ready for a war, especially China is not ready.”
The speculation of the analysts is summed up in the Epoch Times’ subheadline: Chinese and North Korean regimes seek to blackmail United States into concessions. The opening paragraph of this article included my view that somebody miscalculated. It wasn’t the American side, and CCP tyrants may have expected an America that blinks and accomodates, rather than hangs tough.
The news thus far tells that the US is hanging tough, and it is likely to remain in that posture because, as noted, it’s the border of the free world and the stakes include the credibility of US military alliances.
It may complicate matters that the new South Korean president is a militaristic hot head. At the same time, he knows the stakes — the streets of Seoul — better than we do.
I kid you not that we are at the brink of war. Yes, in fact, matters have come to this. We will now sort out three possible paths that events may take: World War, Korean War, and Close Shave.
A World War is now unlikely, because China would have to go it alone. The Obama administration has been on a charm offensive to “reset” its relationship with Russia, and has peeled Russia away from the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) military alliance with China. And, Obama recently went on a trip to Asia that was another charm offensive with such places as India and Indonesia. They have their own reasons to be wary of China, and they will not be joining China for the enlargement of a World War.
Governments around the world have been unanimous in condemning North Korea for Tuesday’s shelling. That includes Russia. Only China, in its state media, has refrained from condemning North Korea. As noted above, North Korea has no other friend but China. A geopolitical strategy has already isolated and encircled these two “friends.”
I conclude that a World War is not happening, but in some calculations, war on the Korean peninsula can still widen into a U.S.-China war. Those who know the history of the Korean War in the 1950s know that the Communist Chinese sent reinforcements to North Korea — and that there was direct combat between troops of the U.S. and China.
However, a repeat of this scenario is unlikely. One could recall that the U.S. won the arms race with the Soviet Union, and in recent years we have turned our military “up to 11.” If there’s an arms race with China — we’ve already won that. China is the smaller military power.
It appears that if they want one, they can have it. We are about to “get up in their face” with an aircraft carrier, and we have more where that came from. However, there is vast risk associated with travelling this path, and it is not advisable. The bigger risk is for the Communist regimes, who may view this matter as existential, but there is also massive risk to South Korea and to Seoul in particular. Seoul is close to the border, and within range of North Korean guns. In addition, North Korea may be haboring nuclear weapons, with some missiles that could hit Tokyo and perhaps Hawaii.
For the West, I think that we don’t want to risk war, but that we are doing so now out of necessity. As for the Communist regimes, they know the drill. They are travelling this path of brinksmanship, and they are threatening the peace. They may have to take their lumps in consequence. In any war, the objective would be to disarm North Korea, and neutralize the threat, asap. Further Chinese assistance to the North would prolong the war.
Restraint by all sides could result in this incident passing without war, only to be remembered as a close shave. However, we are contemplating militaries that are on high alert about each other. The various sides will be tempted to project a presence; to probe; to bird-dog; and to test out new weapons. And rules of engagement suggest that if attacked, they may defend themselves. Restraint works when there is not a fight on. When there is a fight on, restraint has failed.
Another challenge to restraint is the fact that North and South Korea are client states, hence they have their own fingers on various triggers. The patron states may not always have complete control over the triggers that may commence a war. In Tuesday’s action, it was North and South Korea, not China and the U.S., who were shooting at each other.
As I say, the Communist states know the drill. There are red lines and rules of engagement, and with their brinksmanship they know that they are pushing on those buttons.
A close shave would preserve the status quo ante. But if matters move forward, then there are possible outcomes that are very bad and very good. A U.S.-China nuclear war is an awful outcome to contemplate. It should be unthinkable, and we should fervently hope that matters don’t escalate to that point. On the other hand, imagine a reunified peninsula with a single Korea, free and whole. That is the good vision, and the outcome for which we should fervently hope.
Elementary schools sometimes give grades to school children, for the category “works and plays well with other students.” For North Korea, they have a grade of F in that column. They have been a menace to society for far too long, with erratic misbehavior that has been odd ball, eccentric, and dangerous to peace and security. If the fight is on, continued tenure of the North’s regime should be unacceptable. In 2006, the China Support Network said that North Korea must be liberated. In the long run — and perhaps the short run — that is the right ultimate objective to pursue.
One reason why North Korea became belligerent recently may be because of near-rebellion within its own ranks. Senior military leaders are being passed over in favor of Kim Jong-un, a 27 year old who was recently elevated to a four-star general’s rank. Perhaps hereditary succession in North Korea is meeting with some resistance, and the Kims needed a foreign crisis to focus attention elsewhere and to compel patriotic loyalty. The regime may be as fragile as eggshells.
I wonder how many North Koreans really want to proceed forward with a hereditary communist dictatorship? Discontent in North Korea may be an ace in the hole, and an interesting card for the West to play.
Before concluding this article, here are two notes. (a.) Reports on Friday indicate that artillery was heard being fired within earshot of the same island that suffered damage on Tuesday. (b.) In any negotiations, my organization stands by the same advice, advanced in a 2003 article by Zhou Yongjun and myself: Just say ‘no’ to North Korea. We oppose concessions and appeasement, and the taxpayers of the free world should likewise object to any use of their money that props up the regime of Kim Jong-il.