As a helpless US president Trump frets and fumes, repeatedly warning North Korean leader Kim-Jong un, Kim continues to thumb his nose defying the threats and merrily goes on testing his nuclear and thermo-nuclear ballistic missiles capable of reaching the US mainland.
In 1950, North Korea invaded and pushed the South Koreans to merely a small territory around Busan city. The US forces stepped in to push the North back, when China intervened resulting in a stalemate and ending in an armistice, which in effect means the two Koreas were always in a state of war. Any US attack will defy the UN treaty between the Koreas.
The US President frustratingly complained that China could have done more, which they indeed could have, except mildly reprimanding Kim. China has a 56-year-old defence treaty with North Korea and account for 90% of N. Korea’s trade. It has an 880-mile common border with the Northern China’s shallow Yalu river, a vulnerable region through which millions of poor and unskilled North Koreans could land up as refugees in China, in the event of any conflict. Despite sanctions, trade between China and North Korea goes on, legally or otherwise.
The US, to me, cannot invade North Korea or nuke it, as it would cause devastating catastrophe over the entire Korean peninsula spilling as well over to Japan. Though US is aware of a few production facilities, N. Korea’s nuclear facilities and arsenals are kept as closely guarded secrets. China has warned the US against any pre-emptive attacks, which would engulf the region into a bloody war, far worse than the first Korean war. Interestingly the new South Korean president Moon Jae-in too has suggested diplomacy and not war, as do most Japanese too.
China could have contained Kim, but would have wanted to chastise a gun-toting and rabble rousing Trump over the controversial Chinese defence built up on the South China Seas islands. North Korea, a poor nation with little access to technology, burgled the blueprints of the nuclear tipped ICBMs with the support of Pakistan, China and perhaps Iran. A belligerent Kim, testing the nerves of the boisterous US is in the interest of China.
North Korea, despite being a small nation, has lived on loud rhetoric and have built an aura of a regional power, boosted by their victory over South Korea in the 50s. North has a massive army, blind and loyal to Kim and are tied to many terrorist groups. What if a provoked Kim drops a nuke over Seoul or Tokyo, or even take a chance strike at the US mainland itself? The cloak of invincibility surrounding the US would be torn and shattered, which Trump would avoid at all costs.
The solution may not lie in war between the US and the North Korea as the collateral damages could be very high. China cannot be a mere onlooker and there is one another tiger licking its wound, Russia, which though has not directly entered the conflict zone has advised the US against any hasty moves. In this war, the US may have lesser colleagues, save Japan and the UK; the Japanese people still remembering the agonising decades after Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the English, exasperated with its Brexit woes.
A recent interesting parallel is Doklam, where India and China were staring at each other eyeball to eyeball. No one dared to pull the trigger and fire the first shot as both knew the costs and consequences.
Situation in Korea is no different and Kim will not dare to fire first as he loves and enjoys his life dearly, but Trump, egged by a defence lobby could be a different ball game altogether. Nothing short of meaningful talks will solve the Korean crisis.