The US & China: Why The Sudden Convergence On North Korea?

Tyler Durden's picture

Authored by Charles Hugh-Smith via OfTwoMinds blog,

It was no coincidence that America's 11-ton bunker-tunnel busting bomb was deployed in Afghanistan as tensions mount over North Korea's nuclear theats.

In the past, China resisted U.S. saber-rattling against North Korea. Now China is threatening North Korea with military action. What's going on? Why the sudden convergence of U.S.-China threats of military force against North Korea?

China Threatens To Bomb North Korea's Nuclear Facilities If It Crosses Beijing's "Bottom Line".

China also noted that "nuclear weapons is DPRK's trump card for its defiance of China and the United States. Once this card is lost, it will become obedient immediately."

The author then speculated rhetorically that if North Korea's "nuclear facilities are destroyed, they will not even fight back, but probably block the news to fool its domestic people. The DPRK will freak out if its nuclear facilities are destroyed." And yes, a Chinese author said "freak out."

The report also said that "the DPRK must not fall into the turmoil to send a large number of refugees, it is not allowed to have a government that is hostile against China on the other side of the Yalu River, and the US military must not push forward its forces to the Yalu River."

For context, here is a satellite photo of the Korean peninsula: note the black hole devoid of lighting. That's North Korea.

The difference between North Korea and South Korea is mostly political. Stalinist North Korea has starved its people for decades to support a vast war machine, and kept them ignorant of the broader world. This is slowly changing as smugglers do a brisk and highly dangerous business in banned DVDs and other digital media:

How media smuggling took hold in North Korea (PBS)

Can Smuggled TV Shows Change North Korea? (NY Times)

South Korea's economy is larger (by some measures) than the economies of nations such as Spain, Australia, Mexico and Russia. South Korea is not just a formidable economic power; it fields a powerful military and has global "soft power" via its media and investment reach. It also has substantial trade with China.

South Korea is a powerhouse, North Korea is a rogue state that has starved millions of its citizens to death and threatens to spark a nuclear war that could impact China very negatively, even if China avoids military conflict.

Which state would you rather be responsible for protecting? Which one is an asset and which is a costly, risky liability? The answer is obvious to all.

To understand the China-North Korea client state relationship, we have to start with the 1950s-era Cold War and the Hot War in Korea 1950-1953. Threatened by the Cold War American presence in South Korea, China viewed North Korea as an essential buffer against invasion from the south.

When allied Western forces occupied virtually all of North Korea in the Korean War, China's army crossed the Yalu River to force a return to the pre-war border between North and South Korea.

China's supreme leader Chairman Mao Zedong took the threat of land invasion so seriously that he ordered (at enormous expense) the relocation of critical industrial plants from coastal areas into the hinterlands, the better to distance them from invasion.

China has effectively subsidized and supported the North Korean state for the past 70 years as a buffer against a land invasion from South Korea. China supplies North Korea with fossil fuels and other essentials and protects it diplomatically.

But does this buffer-state strategy make sense in today's world? The threat is now from nuclear missiles and trade wars, not a land invasion. Though we cannot know what's being discussed or decided behind close doors, the high cost of subsidizing a rogue nuclear state for the now-irrelevant value of a physical buffer may finally be weighing on Chinese decision-makers.

Then there's the all-important matter of "face". The perception of status, influence and power--what's known as "face"--is the core concern in East-Asian societies. "Losing face" by being revealed as powerless and lacking influence is to be avoided at all costs.

Western analysts often under-estimate the importance of maintaining or recovering lost "face" in Asian decision-making.

Consider how much "face" China is losing in being unable to control its rogue client state, North Korea. China is quite keen on projecting itself as a rising global power, and the dominant power in Asia and the adjacent seas.

So how does it look when a supposed global power can't even control a client state on its own border? China's inability to influence, much less control, North Korea's nuclear ambitions and threats gives the lie to its claim of global power.

Even worse, China--the supposed hegemon of Asia--must stand by as the U.S. sails in to deal with China's rogue client state. In terms of "face," this drama is telegraphing that the global power is the U.S., not China, which has been reduced to bystander in the stand-off over North Korea's nuclear threats.

Imagine if the roles were reversed and China had to send its fleet to the Caribbean to deal with a rogue client state of America's, that America could not control or contain. The loss of face is immense.

It was no coincidence that America's 11-ton bunker-tunnel busting bomb was deployed in Afghanistan as tensions mount over North Korea's nuclear theats. The Chinese newspaper report excerpted above noted that the Chinese military knows the location of North Korea's nuclear facilities, but disabling those deeply buried facilities without resorting to nuclear weapons may be beyond China's military capabilities.

So China loses face again: not only can it not control North Korea's nuclear ambitions, it doesn't have the non-nuclear means to destroy them.

In the context of face being lost as China's inability to control or contain its client state is revealed to all, China has no choice but step in before the U.S. acts unilaterally. In terms of saving face, it would be better to force North Korean compliance before the risk of a nuclear exchange escalates, and China may be signaling North Korea that its patience has finally run out.

China's leadership may have finally concluded that supporting and protecting a costly, rogue-nuclear buffer state is actually reducing China's security and rather than enhancing it. It may be time, at long last, for China to engage in its own version of "regime change" as a necessary step to maintaining China's own security.

From this point of view, the entire drama of American threats of military action may be designed to force China to finally step up and take whatever action is necessary to control its rogue client state.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
pocomotion's picture

I think it was planned 10 years ago.

knukles's picture

Son: Why is my sister called Teresa?
Dad: Coz your mum loves Easter - it's an anagram
Son: Thanks dad
Dad: No problem Alan

kgw's picture

It's confirmed: CHS  is totally wacked. . .

BullyBearish's picture

In the context of face being lost as USA's inability to control or contain its client state israhell is revealed to all, USA has no choice but step in before russia acts unilaterally...

 

There, fixed it for you...

thisandthat's picture

In Portuguese we'd say "perder a face". It's not an Asian thing; it's a thing of honorable people, so no wonder it's a foreign concept to US/Western politics/media...

beemasters's picture

Could the photo above be a Photoshopped version?
There are a few Youtube videos on North Korea taken by ordinary travelers. They don't look that bad. The people don't look so "starved" either.

land_of_the_few's picture

Yes, also the author states China supplies NK with fossil fuels. This may well be partly true, but in fact China recently blockaded NK's coal exports via ship to China "their main export".... the type of coal being coking coal particularly useful for steelmaking.

 

fx's picture

Son to dad: Dad, why do the people in North Korea starve so much?

Dad:

1) They have stalinist leadership and suppression system.

2) We destroyed everything there ever was. When the South Koreans and our McArthur boys were done, the once somewhat indutrialized North was nothing but a giant piece of rubble, death and destruction. In Pjongyang a total of two houses were left standing

3) We do ever larger military invasion drills with the South every year like clockwork  precisely when it is time to plant and harvest rice. That forces the North to call all their men (and many women) to military standby-service so they can't grow and harvest food.

Son: so by going nuclear, the North tries to circumvent that threat so that their peasants can keep working even when we do military drills?

Dad: Uhm, yes.

Son: But that means, they aren't so mad over there in the North, after all?

Dad: Stop asking all these intelligent questions, son. That will only get you into trouble. Shut up and watch CNN.

 

Vilfredo Pareto's picture

I dunno.

 

People who need to "save face" when there is no particular advantage to doing so, and there are clear costs, are not acting rationally.   They will tend to make poor decisions and unnecessarily limit their options.

 

American jails and I would assume jails everywhere are full of low level offenders who felt compelled to "save face."

Déjà view's picture

Beijing other option...poker, bluff with an experienced poker player as Trump...

Those alert recall Mr. T stating...foreign holders of U.S. debt receiving pennies on $'$...Trump Cards...

Prehaps he was refering to $2 Trillion U.S. debt held by China...might have a big fat 0 on their ZEROHEDGE...

Goodbye Chicom $350 Billion p.a. trade surpluses...

Chinese Citizens U.S. A$$e$t$ at huge risk (Chicom party officials DIRTY $'$)! Ask WWll Americans of Japanese ancestory...

FORECLOSE on your debtor...explain to millions upon millions of Chinese workers protesting in your streets...

"History Rhymes"...Shì Señor!

NiggaPleeze's picture

This author obviously chose the blue pill.  "Starving millions of its people" - erhh, I think a starvation epidemic did occur in N. Korea, however, it was due to punitive sanctions by our Dear Leaders in the West who imposed food embargoes on North Korea when a series of droughts devasted their rice crops.  Because, you know, it's so much better if you starve tens of thousands of children to death over a period of months by blocking food shipments by force than, say, use a nerve agent that kills a few dozen children in a few minutes.

Now, let's consider Mr. Blue Pill's statement:  "how much "face" China is losing in being unable to control its rogue client state, North Korea."

And we know China cannot control N. Korea because ... because ... oh, yeah, because China should handle N. Korea the way Trump orders them to, and not how they are now doing.  I see.  Because China does not bow to the US to force its long-time ally N. Korea to abide by US dictates - a US that, in particular, absolutely refuses to sign a peace treaty with N. Korea, with which it remains technically at war - China loses face.  I see.  Or ... maybe not.

As to the alleged article about China's "red lines", it is not on the site http://eng.chinamil.com.cn/ at the provided link, nor does the text of the supposed article - in particular, "China has a bottom line that it will protect at all costs" - come up in a search of that site, or of Google, or of globaltimes.cn.  Ooops.  Blue pills will do that to ya.

But, I did find a relevant article on the site, entitled "China denies sending 150,000 more soldiers to North Korea border."  How 'bout that, Mr. Blue Pill?

thisandthat's picture

I currently have a (shitty) lawsuit against a big corp; they opposed it with false allegations. If I don't dispute them, they'll prevail... and I risk a countersuit...

So, yes, sometimes you must stand up for yourself, otherwise you're in trouble, specially with mobster like characters...

Giant Meteor's picture

I was just gonna say, Don't take the bait China !

Implied Violins's picture

Shit. My middle name is Toga.

DingleBarryObummer's picture

 "North Korea has starved its people for decades"

Is there actually proof of this,  Concrete proof?  Not just some guy's testimony who could have gotten paid to make shit up.

Or is this another one of those "gas chambers disguised as shower rooms" and pictures of many people who died from typhus type of bullshits?

They can make dangerous nukes that can almost reach North America but they don't have lights?  Like wtf?  Does that really make sense?

Implied Violins's picture

Really, what do we truly know about Fat Boy? I can't speak Korean, and even if I could, how do we know what is broadcast about him isn't courtesy of Hollywood like a lot of those fake Jihadi head-chopper videos?

How do we know we aren't being played so that the sheeple agree to go to war? And just how many times in history have we been played this way to placate the MIC (hint: it wasn't just 9/11).

For all we know, we may know NOTHING about Syria, or even Iran, that hasn't been propagandized by the CIA/Hollywierd.

Things are now so fucked up the only 'truth' I succumb to now is the certainty that beer can make it all go away...for at least a few hours.

Mr 9x19's picture

the smell of burnt cities  in spring to deflect bad economics data,  grand classic...

Able Ape's picture

AMEN! The pause that refreshes....

theliberalliberal's picture

Norks turn off their lights at night because they take global warming seriously

So It Goes's picture

And there is much less light pollution - so you can go out at night and really enjoy the stars.

BlackSwanGold's picture

In pre-GFC days, a colleague working in the Middle East was flying to Syria for new retail based real estate development.
It always sticks in my mind he observed:
No Credit Cards
No Car Loans
No Mortgages
All Cash Society - clearly that had to go.

Joe Mama 3's picture

Every time I see people taklin mad shit about Jimmy Carter, I think about what you just said. You are exactly right, the common person in America NEVER knows the truth about international affairs, and really was not since the 30's. Carter was the first " outsider" president since the JFK hit, and so much of his presidency was about dealing with Bush, BBH, CIA, etc. I heard the Iranian Hostages were really cia spies working under the guise of embassy employees. Whether some or all were or were not, since they were US citizens, of course we had to do something, but lying and constant lying is not going to help us. I just wish Jimmy would spill the beans before he passes on !!!!!   BTW, a friend of mine calls Jimmy Carter our first black president !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

DingleBarryObummer's picture

those guys working in the ditch have arm muscles.  don't look starving at all. look healthier than average americans

asians are naturally lean, it's genetics

Winston Churchill's picture

Too much assuming going on here, and we know what that makes the author.

Kim and China have been trying to broker a de-nuking agreement for the last three years.

Its been rejected by Obozo twice and Trump once.

If Kim ,and China, get the deal they already wanted, the Trumps supposed deal with Xi was

kabuki all along.Moonofalamba has the real story, go check it out.

flaminratzazz's picture

No lights is a classic military move.. cant see em. cant bomb em// ole kim..he be a genius i tell ya..

either that or they are all mole people?

True Blue's picture

either that or they are all mole people?

Moving factories underground is another classic. And they certainly are some tunnel digging Hobbits; that's for sure. Hell, get on CIA-oggle Earth and you can make a drinking game of spotting all the tunnels literally all over (under) that benighted country, especially around the DMZ.

Koba the Dread's picture

It's probably just some guy who was paid to say how bad North Korea is. As to that photoshopped photo of North Korea in the dark, I checked Google images and there are about a million copies of that same satellite photo. However, there are other photos that show many more lights.

All that blaze of lights from other countries is just streetlights and advertisements. Why does a lack of blazing street lights and advertisements prove anything?

Rogue State! Hermit State! Those terms mean that North Korea wants nothing to do with corrupt western (and eastern) society.

red1chief's picture

They mostly want to avoid Banksters, a big no-no that makes them "rogue".

quax's picture

Was Typhoid Mary your mum? Or did somebody just drop you on your head when you were a baby?

Krungle's picture

We have pictures of people from inside North Korea and I have not seen any that look starving, except maybe compared to the typical obese Westerner. The typically hysterical British tabloids have even run pictures of so-called child labor camps featuring well-fed kids in brand new clothes on field trips to the country, while describing these as scenes of starving, abused kids. There were a series of famines in 90s. Part of the reason for this was that the US and South Korea would plan their bi-annual border drills during the planting and harvesting season for rice. So many men were pulled from the fields to defend the border, thus leading to starvation. Clinton agreed to provide them with grain (and oil) in exchange for them stopping their nuclear program, and then he couldn't even fulfill that obligation. The nuclear deterent is cheaper than massing soldiers at the border, so they were able to leave men in the fields during harvest more recently (thus no famines recently). All the pictures we do have are of a decidedly poor, albeit clean, country with functioning infrastructure. I'm not sure what the point of the night time satellite photos are--80% of North Korea is mountainous, shitty terrain that isn't worth building cities in (also why they are prone to starvation, very little arable land there). I have no doubt they are underdeveloped from a Western perspective, but there just isn't a lot of reason to have big cities in the mountains. They should be commended for the lack of light pollution. But yes, most of what we "know" about North Korea is typical propaganda. I don't think it is by any stretch a paradise, but for a nation that was literally burned to the ground (recall there were only 2 buildings left standing in Pyongyang after the napalming--which is chemical warfare by the way) and then menaced with more invasions for the next almost 7 decades and under a strict embargo for any trade, they're nowhere near as bad as we're led to believe. It's just the knee-jerk association with communism--but Pyongyang is probably nicer than a lot of US inner cities, not to mention safer.

Vilfredo Pareto's picture

You can't take a picture in north Korea without government approval.  Why are you so confident in those pictures?

Laughing.Man's picture

Propaganda from The Tribe and their lackeys.

NiggaPleeze's picture

N. Korea is not technically incapable of lighting itself.  The problem is sanctions, which greatly limits their ability to trade (to get funds to purchase fuels by selling their own goods and services, or by importing energy).  But just like with the sanctions-casued starvation, our Dear Leaders in the West love to blame the victim of their vast crimes.  They do it everywhere and perpetually.  That's why we love 'em so.

alexcojones's picture

Must be a pipeline involved somehow.

Or a Crackpipe shared by China / US ZioNasties

buckstopshere's picture

In his secret deal with China Trump promised Taiwan to China in exchange for a unified Korean Peninsula.

DingleBarryObummer's picture

Interesting theory but I don't think China wants the red shield creeping up on it's north eastern border.

buckstopshere's picture

Why do you think Xi was all smiles when he met with Trump?

China will get Taiwan without firing a single shot and the Koreans will be denuclearized.

DingleBarryObummer's picture

why did Trump have to slap his dick out on the table at dinner with Xi and bomb Syria?

buckstopshere's picture

It was to make Russia feel isolated in a world dominated by three superpowers.

When Xi is dining with Trump while Trump is shooting missiles near Russians, it will appear that China is falling out of favor with Russia.

Russia will feel betrayed by China like a lover scorned.

Laughing.Man's picture

You're forgetting a little detail.  You need to look at what happened afterwards.  IIRC, there were no joint statement made for the press at the end of the summit.  There was no deal made at Mar-A-Lago.  The Sino-Russian relationship is even stronger now after that surprise Syrian attack.

malek's picture

That would make it the equivalent to the Molotov-Ribbentrop deal...

Amun's picture

more like Balfour Declaration

with the Chinese in the Arab seat

Vilfredo Pareto's picture

That is the grand bargain China has always wanted.  Since it is our official government policy that Taiwan is a part of China and this has been consistent throughout multiple administrations then we really have nothing to "give" China that they don't already own.  

 

The China grand bargain sounds very reasonable to me.  Taiwan is an internal problem of China.  

indaknow's picture

Trade. Thats all. 

DingleBarryObummer's picture

In the context of face being lost as China's inability to control or contain its client state is revealed to all, China has no choice but step in before the U.S. acts unilaterally. In terms of saving face, it would be better to force North Korean compliance before the risk of a nuclear exchange escalates, and China may be signaling North Korea that its patience has finally run out.

Saving face?  Saving face for whom?  Why would they give any shits about "face?" How will this hurt them in the future?