Ever since an armistice ended the Korean war in 1956, the drumbeats of war have not stopped on the peninsula rather, it has gotten louder and deafening. And the deafening ‘drumbeats’ have further assumed a larger proportion in recent times no thanks to the brazenness and stubbornness of Pyongyang’s missile experiments and the emergence of a new president in the white house who seems fed up and ready to ditch Washington’s “kids glove or softball” tactic for a more robust, assertive and “hardball” approach to taming the rogue “hermit” nation.
Over the years, North Korea has steadily exploited its isolation from the rest of the world to build and develop her missile technology. It was a hibernation period that allowed the North’s autocratic ruler Kim Jung Un to invest heavily in nuclear and ballistic technologies with reverberating effects.
From Rodong ballistic missiles that was produced under his grand-father, Kim il-sung to Taepodong series with improved capabilities under his father Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un has somewhat kept the legacy alive as the North under his watch, has improved the capabilities, distance (which is believed can reach Hawaii) and payloads of her missiles and now seems ready to go a step further than his father and grand-father by confronting Washington militarily.
In a grand show off of her advance weaponry and missiles during the 105th celebration of the North, Kim Jong-un vowed to react swiftly and forcefully if the US does not back down from her provocative stance towards her, warning the deployment of naval air-carrier and military drills with Seoul (South Korea) and other allies is an act of aggression.
But really, this stand-off with Washington is a “ticking time bomb” that may explode at any moment. Why: Because of Donald Trump’s impatience with Pyongyang. The businessman prior to becoming president had already showed his resentment towards the North during his campaign accusing her of insincerity and “toying with the US” on her missile programs in order to get foreign aid. And having become the President, his views have not changed. Rather, he has taken a detour from his predecessor by abandoning America’s strategic patience policy towards Kim for a “head-on collision”.
Trump has vowed to take out Pyongyang on his own if Beijing, the North’s closest ally does not rein in the 32 year old Kim. China is seen as a “big brother” to the North. She has considerably kept the isolated country’s bloodline flowing with cash and other necessities so, is largely considered as a major player in checking pyongyang’s tantrums. Keeping the North away from harm’s way would be an idea welcomed by Xi Jinping.
With both sides sharing borders, the unsavoury images of North Korean refugees flooding her territory coupled with the prospect of getting drawn in to a war with Washington is not something the people’s communist party would savour. Hence, pressurizing Kim to ditch his weapon programs once and for all for economic aid would be the right step in defusing the tension on the peninsula.
However, the situation still looks tense as both Washington and Pyongyang refuse to back off despite Beijing’s appeal for restraint from both sides. In a show of force and assertive posturing, Mike Pence, America’s vice president currently on a tour to the Asia-Pacific, starting off in South Korea reiterated and reinforced Washington’s stance in protecting Seoul from the nuclear threats of the neighboring North. Really, this latest twist in the Korean peninsula is a culmination of several provocative actions of Pyongyang and somewhat languid or ‘soft ball’ responses of China to the renegade nation’s tantrums.
Since taking over from his late father, Kim had ordered more than seven ballistic missile tests and on one occasion, even had one of his missiles landing close to Japanese waters-A major American ally. While the West and Russia disapprove and condemn the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile technology, China on the other hand has been modest in her condemnation advocating for more patience and talks with the hermit kingdom-An option that seems to have worn out Washington and Donald Trump.
Trump believes the US’ strategic patience did little in pressurizing Pyongyang instead, it only helped buy more time to nearly perfect her ballistic missile technology and upturn Russia and Iran’s status as the greatest threats to America’s security hence, unilateralism maybe the only option to ending this nightmare. It is an option the Chinese fear and are justified to express.
Xi Jinping, the Chinese prime minister got a clear sign that a new sheriff now calls the shots in the White House when he visited Washington recently. While in a meeting with Donald Trump, he was oblivious of what was going on in Syria. His American counterpart had given his military the go-ahead to strike Assad’s air base in Nanjib for allegedly using chemical weapons on innocent civilians. It was an action that jolted Beijing and gave them a clearer picture of who they will be dealing with now as regards the South China Sea issue.
With that at the back of their mind and the recent use of ‘MOAB’ bomb on ISIL cells in Afghanistan, the Chinese are vindicated in their plea for more patience with Pyongyang. Attacking the North would have a devastating effect on the region as a whole. It would leave untold damages and destruction in both human and physical costs on not only Pyongyang but, also South Korea, Japan and even the US. It is a fireball of confusion and horror that the Chinese do not want on their border.
The world needs peace right now not another war in the volatile peninsula. Diplomacy will continue to be an inexhaustible option for Washington if she really wants to end the threat from the North. However, China would have to play a more active role in convincing Kim to dismantle his weapons program. Gone are the days of ‘less action, less talk’ from Beijing. The onus now lies on Xi to help defuse the tension in the region.
He must pressurize Pyongyang into trading in deals for economic packages. She must not only come to the table for talks whenever she’s in need of dire financial aids just like Donald Trump stated but rather, must be willing to strike a deal with the global community. And also opening her facilities for international inspection that will include Russia would help reduce the brewing lava on the peninsula. It is an option, the US must be willing to explore for the sake of peace. Going unilateral won’t help in the quest to tame the North Korean dragon.