Escobar: Finding The Answer To A Riddle Shrouded In Mystery

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Asia Times,

The art of the non-deal might be the only way out of the stand-off between the US and North Korea...

High-level inter-Korean talks at the border village of Panmunjeom not only represent a vital step in Winter Olympics’ diplomacy but also offer a tantalizing chance of a breakthrough in stalled six-party discussions. 

In stark contrast with the usual tweet barrage, United States President Donald Trump even told South Korean President Moon Jae-in that the meeting could yield a positive outcome.

Among the possibilities are that Seoul and Pyongyang could resume civilian exchanges. The hotline between South and North Korea could reopen along with the joint Kaesong Industrial Region, which was closed in 2016.

The potential of reinvigorating the sidelined six-party talks, involving China, Russia, Japan, South Korea, the US and North Korea, is another possibility.

Beyond the Winter Olympics, the fierce divide between North and South, of course, will not be breached, even though North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has stressed that his country will not go nuclear unless “hostile forces” attack his regime.

He appears confident that there will not be a preemptive US nuclear strike because of the North’s deterrent. So, the question now is where will China position itself after the Panmunjeon talks? 

Rumors that Beijing was resigned to an imminent war between Washington and Pyongyang were never credible. Certainly, one view that came out of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China last October was that President Xi Jinping would protect Beijing’s complex relationship with Washington in parallel with relationships with major trade partners across Asia.

But that does not necessarily mean abandoning North Korea. The number one strategic imperative for Beijing is to keep the country as a cushion against the US presence in Northeast Asia. A reunited Korean peninsula, with American soldiers stationed at China’s northwest border, has to be prevented at all costs.

Direct confrontation

Yet that also means averting any escalation that could lead to a direct confrontation with the US. So, it is fair to argue that Xi has concluded that business with the US far outweighs unconditional support for the North, which does not advance Beijing’s interests.

Leading Chinese adviser, Professor Shi Yinhong, has famously described North Korea as a “time bomb,” so contingencies plans have been put in place. The building of a six-lane highway between Shuangliao, a city in western Jilin, through to Ji’an, a prefecture-level city in the central region of Jiangxi, and on to the Korean border is significant.

It can be interpreted as a roadmap to secure the North’s nuclear arsenal in an extreme case. This would involve the Kim dynasty crumbling or a move by Beijing to change the Pyongyang regime – something that has been discussed by Chinese think tanks for years.

Indeed, that scenario ties up with suggestions that China’s People’s Liberation Army would not interfere even if the US launched a preemptive attack. Officially, though, Beijing’s position is in favor of the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

This would start with a “double freeze” mechanism, allowing for dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang. Beijing is acutely aware that containing the North’s nuclear program will have a direct effect on the military upgrading of  Japan and South Korea. China is also keen to improve relations with Seoul. 

Since 1953, only a flimsy armistice exists on the Korean peninsula. And no geopolitical actor has attempted to alter the status quo. After all, any wobble would generate a tectonic shift in the Asia-Pacific geopolitical chessboard, with unforeseen consequences.

Now, though, a nuclear North Korea is changing the dynamics as competition between the US and China in the region intensifies along with Russia’s eastward tilt. Then, of course, there is Japan and South Korea, two major economic powers. 

As much as the North may fear the impact in its own internal market of Beijing’s trademark geoeconomic onslaught, it is not far-fetched to imagine Kim looking toward Washington to throw a wrench into China’s New Silk Roads, known as the Belt and Road Initiative.

Just like Trump, Kim may not be a stellar reader. But he is certainly aware, as the Pentagon sees it, that the Western Pacific, coupled with the Indian Ocean, is absolutely strategic for the containment of China.

Studies such as Michael Green’s By More Than Providence: Grand Strategy and American Power in the Asia Pacific Since 1783 make it clear that the US will not tolerate another power establishing “exclusive hegemony.”

Still, Washington is at a loss when dealing with North Korea. Russia and China oppose any military solution which would interfere with their geopolitical aims. At the same time, Pyongyang wants to be accepted as a nuclear power and a key actor on the Asia-Pacific chessboard.

Devastating strike

Therefore, there are only three options on the table.

The first is a devastating preemptive strike, nuclear as well as air and sea forces. This would lead to an immense loss of life not only in the North but also in Seoul, which would be within range of Kim’s artillery.

The talks in Panmunjeon are yet more evidence that President Moon is doing everything in his power to prevent a march toward war.

The second option is to accept North Korea as a nuclear power under stringent international controls from the US, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea. The de-escalation would have to include a deal to freeze the North’s nuclear program.

There are signs that secret channels used by the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are still open. This improbable redemption of a nuclear rogue state, though, would mean a slight alteration of the status quo. It would also hand China a huge advantage in the region.  

Finally, the third option is to admit this is an insoluble problem, and turn Kim into a rational actor and let the North keep its bomb. Kim’s regime would then be warned that any attempt to use it would result in  “fire and fury”.

Call it the art of the non-deal. 



IH8OBAMA canadian shenanigans Jan 9, 2018 8:11 PM Permalink

OK, I've been holding this plan back for a while.

Here's what we do about NK.  We get a few Mexican tunnel diggers and we have them dig a tunnel from South Korea to Fatso Kim's house and then we dig up and make an entrance.  We send in an elite team to capture Kim and waterboard him on the spot until he agrees to stop his nuclear and missile development.  As an insurance measure we put a long range shock collar around his genitalia and if he steps out of line we zap the bastard.  Problem solved.


In reply to by canadian shenanigans

Dutti IH8OBAMA Jan 9, 2018 8:19 PM Permalink

It's important to keep in mind that if Kim would realize he is in real danger, he would have much less hesitation to let his country being blown up while destroying as much as possible among his enemies.

In other words, he has a lot less to lose - which makes him less predictable and more dangerous.

Remember Hitler, Stalin Mao etc., they had no problem sacrificing their people.

In reply to by IH8OBAMA

caconhma sincerely_yours Jan 9, 2018 9:23 PM Permalink

I have a great respect for Kim. Regardless what but the USA is helpless against him since he has courage and guts.

So far, he won all political games. He was decisive and consistent. In one to two years, having enough thermo-nukes and delivery means, he will move to use a few nukes to explain to everybody that is time to pay for the damage they inflicted on his country and pay for it big time. Then zio-mafia will start to look for a compromise on Kim's conditions. It is like being in a room where one side has modern & powerful super-weapons and another just a hand-grenade and a man who is ready & willing to use it... 

In reply to by sincerely_yours

Slack Jack buzzsaw99 Jan 9, 2018 8:32 PM Permalink

Engdahl says Kim Jong Un is false opposition.

Engdahl says that Kim Jong Un lived in Switzerland from 1991 until 2000. He attended the Liebefeld Steinhölzli school in Köniz near Bern. The strongest hint that Kim Jong Un is a "Pentagon" puppet and not a communist (Chinese) puppet is that he had China's best friend in Pyongyang, Jang Sung-taek, executed. He also ordered the systematic execution of all other members of Jang's family including children and grandchildren (and others that were considered too close to China).

Other hints are that he is usefully (to the US) provocative and doesn't seem to listen to China.

Engdahl also thinks North Korea is an Pentagon Vassal State, but it seems more likely that Kim Jong Un is indeed a "Pentagon" man but that North Korea is (i.e., will be treated as) an enemy state.…

Remember: The first rule for fighting a (real) war is to place your own puppet as the leader of the enemy.

Also, one should not forget that Trump, Obama, Bush and Clinton are all Jews.

And as an example of how real wars are fought,....

Proof that Adolf Hitler was a double agent.

It seems pretty weird when you first read it, but its clearly true.

In reply to by buzzsaw99

SantaClaws IH8OBAMA Jan 9, 2018 8:33 PM Permalink

"Here's what we do about NK.  We get a few Mexican tunnel diggers and we have them dig a tunnel from South Korea to Fatso Kim's house and then we dig up and make an entrance...." 


They did something like that in Peru in 1997.…

"It emerged that security forces - helped by the British SAS - had prepared for the attack up to two weeks in advance.

They dug a network of tunnels under the embassy to install surveillance equipment, pinpointing the whereabouts and movements of both hostages and rebels.

Most of the guerrillas were killed when a tunnel packed with explosives blew up under their feet as they played football."

In reply to by IH8OBAMA

johand inmywallet Jan 9, 2018 8:21 PM Permalink

There is a 4th option. Both the US and China take out the Norths capability with a military strike and allow the United Nations to install a temporary government . Since the relationship with the U.S. is far more important than the relationship with North Korea, and China wants no nukes on Korean peninsula, this is an option that should be examined and hopefully is being discussed. If both China and the US along with the UN confront NK with this scenario, its possible the generals under Kim might just take him out to avoid a complete clusterfuck and loss of country.

besnook Jan 9, 2018 8:25 PM Permalink

the usa reminds me of the jews i used to harass in high school for the sole reason it was fun to watch them blow up because their skin is so thin. it has been so entertaining to watch the world(beginning with chavez in venezuela) poke the usa and watch it blow up in a faggoty tizzy expending huge volumes of political and economic energy to pointlessly "right the wrong".

instead, the proper way to deal with kim is to brush him off with a pithy response and ignore him completely even when he is firing missiles.

because the usa wants to make a big deal of nk it looks like the real target of the nk over response is the average dumbass american to keep supporting the way overstretched and over budgeted military

Mr_Potatohead Jan 9, 2018 8:31 PM Permalink

There is a fourth option.  Kim Jong-un is believed to have a 28 year old wife and three kids - none of which can be old enough to be political forces.  One bullet (if your guys are really good) or one tactical nuke (if they need a larger margin of error) is all it will take to end this game.  What's China or Russia gonna do after a single shot is fired and this guy is gone?  NOTHING they can't already do or threaten to do when they don't get their way!  

Kim Jong-un knows what happened to Saddam Hussien and Muammar Gaddafi.  China and Russia have strong incentives for keeping Kim Jong-un alive.  But it Kim Jong-un happens to pass because of a nail-gun accident or two self-inflicted gunshot wounds to his head or an accidental explosion during a nuke test, do you honestly think they're going to launch WWIII?

Davidduke2000 Jan 9, 2018 8:35 PM Permalink

I understand that NK, Sk, Japan, Russia and China could discuss the matter, but the hell the us is doing there? the us is 10,000 miles away and has no border with NK.

aqualech Jan 9, 2018 8:41 PM Permalink

Wow.  An intentional distraction from the important things going on in the world.  Carrier Group, blah blah blah.

Meanwhile, the looting out of the back door or the puppet show continues.

new game aqualech Jan 9, 2018 9:26 PM Permalink

certainly is an excellent distraction. 

meanwhile the looting goes on. yup, agree and obvious in our face open and notorious.what about that crumble. i drive the roads for a living in the twin cities and think about that bridge over the river that collapsed. i cross the mississippi and mn river about 10 - 15 time every day. the replacement to. strange death wish. meanwhile, bombs away around the world to the tune of 800 billion/year, plus another 200billion for the results of a world at war, ie va...

In reply to by aqualech

refill6times Jan 9, 2018 8:51 PM Permalink

"A reunited Korean peninsula, with American soldiers stationed at China’s northwest border, has to be prevented at all costs.'


If the k's decide to reunite, why the fuck should the US still position troops there?

Son of Captain Nemo Jan 9, 2018 10:18 PM Permalink

POTUS Donny needs the BIGGEST $TRILLION LOAN(S) from Xi and Vlad before imminent COLLAPSE within 6 months!...

Even CRYPTO won't save U.S. from him using his "BIGGEST BUTTON" if he has to!!!

JibjeResearch Jan 9, 2018 10:52 PM Permalink

Trump needs to be an intern to Macron. 

Macron, a young ass-guy, got 50 business deals within 3 days in China.


I was right from the beginning... before he became the President, Trump is a moron!

quasi_verbatim Jan 10, 2018 4:05 AM Permalink

The Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean are essential for the 'containment' of China just as the Eastern Pacific and the Western Atlantic is essential for the containment of America.

Better start building the new US Silk Road, down Mexico way.


Rex Andrus Jan 10, 2018 4:56 PM Permalink

Glorious Oddjob is succumbing to asian unisex pattern baldness and obviously not handling it too well. Best to disconnect his button until he come to grips with his emoism.