< link rel="DCTERMS.isreplacedby" href="http://www.frassle.net/catfishncod" />
Catfish and Cod
Monday, July 14, 2003
(via, in order: The Command Post, Winds of Change, The Agonist, {U.S. News & World Report; Sydney Morning Herald})

As noted in the post below, North Korea has begun reprocessing nuclear fuel rods. (The US and South Korea are, for political reasons, dissembling on that point; but when intelligence officials speak of precise dates and isotopes, you know they aren't kidding.) The US cannot allow the NK's to nuclearize; they can and will sell weapons to the highest bidder, including you-know-who. So we're going to have to do something about it.

Plan 5030 is the information-age update to the North Korea plans that have been drawn up regularly, every three years, since the Korean War "ended". Critics in the Administration contend that it's too provocative. This may be true, but it can't be more provocative than creating nuclear weapons while screaming that the slightest hint of an economic embargo will be considered full casus belli. If -- if -- we really do have to go to war, I wouldn't have any problem with executing Plan 5030. The real worry that Administration critics have, which they don't voice in a conservative magazine such as USN&WR, is that the President might authorize the war plan before any serious discussion ensues in Congress, thus wagging the dog and Gulf-of-Tonkining his way into a Second Korean War.

I don't think this is likely. True, Bush-baby did get us into a war in Iraq that was not, strictly speaking, necessary; and he's invested a huge chunk of our military into doing it. But even Bush can't escape the fact that our military is now running on all cylinders; if he starts another war in Korea, there's zero excess capacity if the world springs another leak. The Pentagon would really put up a fight if they thought Bush was ordering them into a situation they couldn't handle. No, if there's a secondary purpose to Plan 5030, it's to frighten China -- who is the only country that can leash North Korea -- into controlling the situation: stop me before I warmonger again!

China, however, may have other plans. It's dawned on the Chinese that they can't stop North Korea from falling via pre-emptive occupation. Equally, the Chinese don't really want a nuclear North Korea. First, it might cause SK and Japan to go nuclear; second, it would boost Pakistan's arsenal, and thus India's. Any further reduction on China's regional nuclear monopoly would be regarded in Beijing as a net negative, so China will have to take action. The question is, what?

They don't seem to want to play the game our way: despite repeated calls to action, China refuses to bring themselves to participate in the vital embargo of North Korean bombs and missiles. Combined with the Chinese assessment that Korean nationalism will cause a removal of U.S. troops regardless of the outcome of the current conflict, a chilling scenario presents itself. What if China deliberately allows the Second Korean War to occur? In the short term, China seems to win all around. North Korea, that pesky nuisance, is destroyed. South Korea (or, then, "Korea") will be devestated: everything north of the DMZ is a blight; Seoul will be damaged if not destroyed; and the economy will be in a shambles. Plus, the U.S. expends more of its energy, blood, and treasure -- and possibly loses its closest bases to China in the process. China's enemies snubbed and hobbled with no cost to China and no action on her part: what a deal!

Except. Except that it would be a very neo-French thing to do, and the parallel would not escape the US population and particularly the current Administration. The economic consequences of a snubbing such as the French are currently receiving could be disastrous.

This quote seems to indicate that the Chinese are steering away from such Machieavellian plotting:

The source said the Chinese working group took the view that China's economic interests in keeping regional stability and co-operative relations with the US far outweighed its strategic stake in North Korea.

If the Chinese really value their US ties, they'll help us to hobble and collapse the North Korean government and army, and allow South Korea (who are able and willing) to rehabilitate their own land. Let's hope they do. China is far more populous than both Koreas put together, and will be far more rich. Korea poses no threat to China except as a conduit for other, larger powers (such as Japan and the US). It's therefore in China's interest to woo South Korea as a future ally, which in the short term means allowing them to have the husk of North Korea -- a failed attempt at a buffer state. A democratic/capitalist Korea on China's borders, in the long run, is far safer for everyone than a starving one -- or a nuked one.