My father served in South Korea in 1960 and fell in love with Kimchi, the national dish of Korea. It is a fermented dish with cabbage and other vegetables as its base. It is full of garlic. I have always disliked the smell of it intensely, which is probably why I have always avoided getting too involved in Korean Peninsula issues. Another reason is probably because it is nigh on impossible for Americans to really understand what is going on there. I am not even certain North Koreans know. Unfortunately, now, all of us are hearing a great deal about North Korea and its new young leader who is so bellicose.
The basic problem is that North Korea is still fighting a 1950s Cold War battle against the U.S., and China is still supporting the North out of what China thinks is self-interest. The thought process is that if North Korea keeps the U.S. preoccupied with its threats, China will be able to keep its superiority in the region. This is considered the reason why China has not stopped North Korea and its development of nuclear weapons. Supposedly, a large majority of the leadership in China thinks that keeping the U.S., Japan, and South Korea on edge will help China. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” type of logic.
There was a brief sign — due to a newspaper opinion editorial in one of China’s most influential papers — that perhaps some of the leadership believed it might be time to cut the chord between China and North Korea. Unfortunately, it seems as if that was just a brief moment since the author has been suspended from his job. China’s leadership hasn’t taken the step to squash the young dictator. They might be closer simply because the longer this tension lasts, the more people in South Korea and Japan are going to talk about the need for their own countries to become nuclear powers in order to protect themselves. China will not like the idea of a nuclear Asia.
Until China changes its stance, the U.S. has to try to understand if the verbal threats and the movement of missiles to the coast of North Korea mean that the young leader is actually going to try to attack South Korea, Japan, or even the U.S. Is this the normal bellicosity and threats from the leadership that we have experienced before when they are trying to get some concessions from the world or is it a serious threat? Unfortunately, we don’t have the intelligence to call that with certainty. It becomes a guessing/waiting/preparing game. If we overreact, we could start a regional war especially with China if they are sticking to their old game of supporting North Korea no matter what. If we under react we could end up with innocents in South Korea or Japan or somewhere else being killed. Then forced to respond after the fact to support our allies.
Let’s hope that Kim Jong Un is just pommeling his chest and trying to get the support of his military rather than actually planning to attack another nation and that all of the other players in this game don’t ignite the situation. Unfortunately, only time will tell if this is true.
And who said our biggest problem was Arab terrorists? This just goes to show that the modern world is full of challenges. What other part of the world might be ready to rock our boat?