The People’s Republic of China is once again disseminating its ever-predictable rhetoric to make it seem as if this time, for sure, they are “losing patience with North Korea”. Just as predictably, current and former State Department officials in this Administration are gobbling it up hopefully and eagerly. From the Telegraph:
There are clear signs that China is losing patience with North Korea, America’s former top diplomat in Asia has said.
“There is a subtle shift in Chinese foreign policy. Over the short to medium term, that has the potential to affect the calculus in north east Asia,” Mr Campbell said at a forum at John Hopkins university.
“You have seen it at the United Nations (Security Council). We have seen it in our private discussions and you see it in statements in Beijing,” he added.
No, you haven’t. You have HEARD it. What we have SEEN is a People’s Republic of China that backs the DPRK unequivocally. If they did not, the DPRK and Kim Jong Un, like his father and grandfather before him, would stand down from their provocations post-haste. But, we continue to hear how “this time China is warning North Korea”. We heard it with the starting of the nuclear program. And again with the nuclear tests. Each one of them. We heard such with the testing of theater ballistic missiles. And with the sinking of a ROK Navy frigate. And the unprovoked artillery attack against ROK soldiers and civilians.
But there was no real warning. And often, quite the opposite. The warning has been issued instead to the South and to the United States about “restraint” and the need for “stability”. Yet, the naively hopeful straw-grasping continues.
Earlier, Mr Campbell told the Wall Street Journal that China “cannot be happy” and that he expected a tougher line to emerge from Beijing.
Au contraire. The PRC is ecstatic watching US attempts to garner both deterrent force and potential combat power from a shrinking pool of assets as the self-inflicted slashing of America’s military narrows options and limits US presence in the region. But State is not the only entity hopelessly out of touch with China, her relationship with the DPRK, and her intentions to displace the US and dominate the region.
However, Daniel Pinkston, a North Korea expert at the International Crisis Group, said Beijing was “fed up” at the distractions being created by Pyongyang while it tries to focus its energies on other problems. “They need to address issues in the South China Sea, they have a corruption campaign going on at home, North Korea is giving them a headache,” said Mr Pinkston.
It would seem Mr. Pinkston doesn’t quite understand whose headache the situation has become. But China does. As does Iran. And every other of America’s adversaries. And our allies, too.
The notion that China disapproves of the actions of the DPRK to the point of “changing the calculus” in the region, or simply tolerates the North because it is “the devil you know” is absurdly naive. Reflective, unfortunately, of an arrogant, clumsy, and amateurish US State Department, whose lack of acumen and and diplomatic skill is paraded yet again across the world stage. The PRC is keenly aware of the value of an unpredictable and well-armed North Korea as a constant thorn in the side of the US, especially as the PLAN grows and the USN shrinks.
If we want to know what China’s role is, do not watch what they say, especially not what is intended for our consumption. Watch what they do. And don’t do.
Acta non verba.