Is China finally becoming part of the solution to North Korea’s illegal nuclear and missile programs? Don’t hold your breath.
On Feb. 18, China’s Commerce Ministry announced suspending coal imports from North Korea for one year — to punish the North for their latest missile test in early February.
North Korea’s state-run media lambasted their communist allies in Beijing for this betrayal.
Champagne corks are popping all over Washington, D.C.
The foreign policy establishment of "panda huggers" and their echo chamber in the mainstream media is celebrating the imminent arrival of China’s cavalry to rescue the U.S. and its Pacific allies from North Korean nuclear missiles.
But wait! On Feb. 23, reportedly U.N. and Chinese government data shows China is already cheating on earlier promised reductions of coal imports from North Korea!
Western elites prefer to see China as a "me too" state.
In this view, the communist giant wants normalized relations to become a respected member of the "Western" world order (which includes U.S. Pacific allies) that since the end of World War II has been led by the United States.
Panda huggers believe China abhors North Korea’s illegal nuclear and missile programs and wants to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. But China has been reluctant to use its vast economic leverage to force Beijing’s client state to denuclearize, in part for humanitarian reasons — economic sanctions would make North Korea’s already impoverished people suffer even worse.
Nor does China want to risk collapse of North Korea, bringing unwanted refugees into China, and inviting South Korea and the U.S. to fill the vacuum near China’s border.
For decades, western elites have believed, with enough coaxing of Beijing, they can play "the China Card" to compel North Korean denuclearization.
However, there is a more cynical perspective.
Realists believe China is an expansionist power, bitterly discontented with the status quo in Asia and the wider world order. China knows the U.S. is the architect of the present "unjust" world order and sees the U.S. as its chief enemy.
China and Russia are helping greatly accelerate North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and are playing the North Korea card against the United States. China and Russia know that North Korean nuclear missile threats against South Korea and Japan are an enormous challenge to the credibility of U.S. security guarantees.
If North Korea can threaten the U.S. mainland, this could undermine beyond salvation the credible security basis for the existing international order in the Pacific, led by the United States. Would the U.S. risk a nuclear exchange with North Korea in order to protect South Korea and Japan?
Seoul and Tokyo may be excused for not thinking so.
And the American people may be excused for not wanting to be, for the sake of the security of faraway nations, nuclear victims of North Korea. For China and Russia, one of the biggest prizes they could win with their nuclear North Korea card is American isolationism.
If North Korean nuclear missiles can prod the United States further down the path begun by former President Obama, so that U.S. "leading from behind" becomes abandonment of its global security responsibilities—then China and Russia will have won their New Cold War without fighting.
Moscow and Beijing, in extremis, might use the little man in Pyongyang to fight a nuclear war by proxy.
Toward these ends, Russia and China have provided North Korea with much of the technology for its rapidly advancing nuclear missile programs.
For example, Russia has sold to North Korea a dozen Golf-class ballistic missile submarines, the SS-N-6 missile that has been re-engineered into North Korea’s KN-08 and KN-14 ICBMs, and apparently the design for a Super-EMP warhead that could blackout North America with one blow.
Some analysts note North Korea’s new solid-fuel missile, tested in early February to great international consternation, resembles China’s JL-1 missile. Solid-fuel missiles can launch more rapidly than liquid-fuel missiles, in 5 minutes versus 30 to 60 minutes, can more easily hide because of fewer support vehicles, and are harder to find and destroy.
North Koreas new missile, the Pukguksong-2 (Polaris-2), is also cold launched — ejected from a tube by compressed gases before engine ignition — which can increase range and payload, like Chinese and Russian missiles.
Overwhelming evidence that China sees the U.S. as the enemy appeared in January, when Beijing flight-tested its new DF-5C ICBM — armed with 10 independently targeted nuclear warheads. Fifty such missiles could target all U.S. ICBM, bomber, and submarine bases in a first strike.
Will panda huggers never learn that China is not our friend?
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security. He served in the Congressional EMP Commission, the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA. He is author of "Blackout Wars." For more of his reports, Go Here Now.