Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Is China ultimately inept when it comes to controlling North Korea?

Is China on the verge of abdicating its role as suzerain of North Korea? In the wake of the North Korean attack on South Korea's Yŏnpyŏng-do Island, the Wall Street Journal has an interesting addressing Beijing's ability to keep Pyongyang on a tighter leash, or not:
China’s response to news of the North Korean firing of dozens of rounds of artillery at a South Korean island has been cautious so far, with a foreign ministry spokesman saying Tuesday that Beijing had “noticed the reports” and was “concerned about the issue.”

With smoke still rising over Yeonpyeong island, no one expects China or any other country to stray beyond the bounds of diplomatic prudence. But how China responds — or, even more fundamentally, how long it takes China to respond — will be a central focus of global attention once the smoke finally clears.

The last time North Korean aggression led to South Korean bloodshed — the sinking of a South Korean patrol ship, the Cheonan, in March, which an international investigation blamed on Pyongyang — China remained tongue-tied, failing to publicly express condolences for almost a month. That silence flustered, and ultimately frustrated, regional neighbors who look to China to keep North Korea from running too far off the rails.

North Korea’s military misadventures put China in a difficult position. Besides being Pyongyang’s only ally of consequence, Beijing has a vested interest in supporting the North Korean regime, the collapse of which could send millions of North Korean refugees flooding into China.

At the same time, China has increasingly pushed to be seen as the region’s dominant peace keeper and power broker — a role that requires it to calm nerves made jittery by North Korea’s occasional outbursts.
Lest you feel sorry that China is forced to have this belligerent little brother to take care of, let's not forget that North Korea is, essentially, Dr Chinastein's own little monster. They have been propping up the Pyongyang regime for years and they repeatedly turn a blind eye to its murderous excesses, in the interest of keeping North Korea as a buffer state. And yeah, while they position themselves to challenge the United States as regional hegemon, it's increasingly clear that they can't even keep their closest ally from committing repeated sociopathic outbursts.

Geopolitical FAIL.

Screw how China reacts. While it would be nice if Beijing would man up and slap down Pyongyang for this latest egregious behavior, I'm not holding my breath. It's time to stop kowtowing to China, always fearful of how the rabid panda will react, and just start working around them. If they block a resolution or whatever in the UNSC, just go after North Korean targets anyway.

China needs to know there are consequences for not keeping their client state in line. I applaud efforts by China to push the reforms of Northeast China into North Korea, but if they don't have the ability to prevent Pyongyang from killing ROK civilians and military personnel, they're sorta useless.

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