Saturday, April 13, 2013


eastwind journals


By Bernie Lopez

What is the whole point behind the barrage of visits of US officials to China? Are they making sure a planned US military move against North Korea will not trigger an accidental war with China? There are two possibilities. First is a pre-emptive strike, which is highly unlikely. The threat is not that imminent to warrant such brinkmanship, although certain quarters say you never know. Second is a massive counter-response if North Korea attempts to draw first blood. Either way, the situation can be precarious between the two giants.

Scheduled to visit China are John Kerry, Secretary of State, on April 12th, accompanied by NATO Chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen, followed a week later by General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to improve Sino-American armed forces communication lines, followed a month later by Thomas Donilon, Obama’s National Security Adviser. Something is brewing from these three visits.

Let us take it one step at a time. Kerry represents the White House, so the agenda is on the summit level, the smooth one-on-one dialogue of the two heads of state in case of a negative scenario. The fact that he is accompanied by NATO is simply to say that other forces in Europe are behind the US.

Dempsey’s mission is obvious, making sure there are no foul-ups in communications between the American and Chinese armed forces if a negative scenario breaks out, or if the US responds to North Korean brinkmanship. It is crucial that China knows every move of the US against North Korea to avoid an accidental confrontation between the Eagle and the Bear. The last visit by NSA Chief Donilon is for the US to explain its security protocols. The US has no choice but to retaliate if North Korea draws first blood.

So, the US is very cautious but its guns are all cocked and ready. The initiative is actually on the one making the threats, North Korea. It has made a threat that it is ready to draw. Can its next missile test trigger a US response? This is the whole point of the visits. The US does not want a Chinese counter-response, if the US is forced to respond.

The vicious circle of US presence and NOKOR missiles

Neither the US nor China wants a war in the Korean peninsula. But who is provoking whom? There is a vicious cycle of provocations and counter-provocations. The US beefs up its presence in South Korea, North Korea responds with a missile threat, to which the US reacts, and send carriers and subs into the area. Then, North Korea tests more missiles. The Koreans wants missiles because of American presence. The Americans beef up presence because of Korean missiles. The cycle has to be broken before a full scale war ensues, but there is a dilemma. If the Americans withdraw its presence, South Korea fears the power vacuum will embolden the North to invade the South. Also, this will embolden Chinese expansionist moves. If the Americans stay, the vicious cycle of escalation ensues.

To the Chinese, North Korea is an ally, being a buffer to the American base in Guam and Japan. But it is perhaps getting irritated playing guardian to a saber-rattling brat of an ally. China signed the UN Security Council resolution tightening sanctions on North Korea. Some say this is pretense, but others say even China considers North Korea a nuisance for disrupting its expansionist moves in the region with a stronger US presence. The flash points include Spratleys in the Philippines, Senkaku and Diaoyu in Japan, the Paracels in Vietnam that they acquired in 1974, to name a few. Lately, they have territorial disputes with Brunei and Malaysia, not to mention India.

Chinese expansion or none, the US expansionist approach is different, just a string of military bases, in Australia, Guam, Japan, you name it. Clearly the Eagle and the Bear, both reputed predators, want a piece of the Southeast Asian pie. Small nations are mere fence-sitters in their own turf. So what’s new?

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