The Chinese Factor in Peacefully Resolving Tensions on Korean Peninsula

China's Commerce Ministry issued a ban effective from Tuesday (15/08) on several imports from North Korea, including coal, iron ore, lead concentrates and ore, lead and seafood, a move that is in line with United Nations sanctions announced this month. (Reuters Photo/Edgar Su)

By : Iskandar Hadrianto | on 3:06 PM April 24, 2017
Category : Opinion, Commentary

"Diplomacy is a continuation of war by other means," Zhou Enlai, the first premier of the People's Republic of China, was quoted as saying in a play upon the maxim by Prussian general and military theorist Carl von Clausewitz, who famously said: "War is the continuation of politics by other means."

On the eve of a private dinner in honor of Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago in West Palm Beach, Florida, on April 7, "Godfather" Trump ordered an attack on Syria with dozens of Tomahawk missiles.

Then, on April 17, a 9,800-kilogram GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB), nicknamed "Mother of All Bombs," was dropped on Afghanistan at a cost of $170,000. Nearly 100 members of the Islamic State movement are believed to have died in the attack.

The international community is now waiting for China to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The success of Chinese diplomacy is the cornerstone to avoiding a disaster intelligence agencies predict to occur on Thursday (27/04).

Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council has already imposed six critical sanctions in response to hostile acts by the North Korean regime. These sanctions were issued under Resolution 1695 of 2006, condemning ballistic missile tests; Resolution 1718 of the same year, expressing concern over nuclear testing; Resolution 1874 of 2009, after further nuclear tests; Resolution 1887 of 2009 to reinforce Resolution 1540 of 2004 on nonproliferation and disarmament; Resolution 2270 of 2016 on nuclear testing (involving more comprehensive action); and Resolution 2321 of 2016, in response to a nuclear test by North Korea on Sept. 9.

Unfortunately, the international community's concerns were ignored by the predatory warmonger, Kim Jong-un.

Intelligence calculations are worrisome. There might be a massive US attack to prevent 33-year-old Kim from causing further instability on the Korean Peninsula and the East Asia region.

In response to this scary development, Pentagon boss James "Mad Dog" Mattis, a retired US Marines general, directed three aircraft carriers towards the region. The aircraft carrier CVN-70 Carl Vinson is expected to arrive off the South Korean coast on Tuesday and CVN-76 Ronald Reagan is currently in port at Yokosuka, Japan. CVN-68 Nimitz is also ready to be deployed to the region.

In the meantime, the South Korean Armed Forces and its ally, the United States, are conducting routine military exercises in Panmunjom, close to the demilitarized zone. On the other hand, there are reports that the Russian Federation deployed military divisions along its border with North Korea, although an official Russian statement said it was simply a routine military exercise.

It is obvious that US policy (and the international community) is targeted at the removal of North Korea's significant nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities. Some 20 years ago, intelligence agencies estimated that Pyongyang had at least one plutonium-239 bomb. Now Kim is suspected of possessing about 20 more sophisticated nuclear bombs. North Korea has approximately 1,000 ballistic missiles with the ability to strike its immediate neighbors, including Japan.

According to military estimates, the North Korean military had around 1.2 million active personnel and 7.7 million reservists in 2015. However, the country's superiority lies in its thousands of ballistic missiles, including "Nodong," which has a range of 1,300 kilometers, "Musudan" (4,000 km) and "Taepodong" (2,000-8,000 km).

In contrast, the South Korean military had 38 divisions consisting of 495,000 active personnel and an additional 400,000 reservists in 2015. It is equipped with up to 2,500 tanks, 2,700 armored fighting vehicles, 5,800 artillery pieces, 60 guided missile systems and 600 helicopters.

South Korea's main battle tanks include 880 of the M48 Patton series and its upgrades, such as the M48A3K, M48A5, and M48A5K. It also has 33 Soviet-era T-80Us and two T-80UKs it received from Russia as part of a debt settlement, as well as 1,524 locally produced K1A1 and K1 tanks, equipped with 120-millimeter smoothbore guns.

United States Forces Korea (USFK), which is stationed in South Korea, has a combined Army, Navy, Air Force personnel of 28,500 and an additional 100 members of the US Marines Corps. USFK is a sub-unified command of the United States Pacific Command, headquartered in Honolulu, Hawaii.

However, according to military intelligence calculations, there is no "error-free" rationale in opting for military action to permanently remove North Korea's nuclear capabilities and ballistic missiles without risking large-scale war.

China's firmer attitude towards North Korea is expected to prevail. President Xi sent a strong message to Kim, stating that if he continues to harm peace efforts in the region, China might drastically reduce oil shipments and curtail coal imports by North Korea.

However, North Korea seems unperturbed by Xi's threats and Trump's warnings.

North Korea's second-in-command, Vice Marshal Choe Ryong-hae replied to these threats by saying that his country's response to any military action would be "all-out war" and even nuclear strikes, if deemed appropriate.

Obviously, this would be a worst-case scenario involving not only huge suffering for neighboring countries, but also the global community.

If Trump uses arithmetic sequences of 10 days, such as April 7 and April 17, then April 27 could be the date that would result in imminent danger of a global catastrophe.

The international community should bear in mind that with a first strike, either with or without nuclear warheads, North Korea could easily weaken its adversaries' capabilities, considering that it is only 195 km from Pyongyang to Seoul and 1,284 km from Pyongyang to Tokyo.

The international community is now anxiously waiting for the expected arrival of the Carl Vinson in the region on Tuesday and the Ronald Reagan soon after.

The consequences of this David-and-Goliath duel are too ghastly to contemplate. Humankind can only pray that Trump's arithmetic does not match that 13th-century Italian mathematician Fibonacci. Hopefully, in these critical moments, China will successfully urge Kim to permanently postpone his military ambitions.

Iskandar Hadrianto is a foreign policy analyst. He is a former senior diplomat and official at the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a graduate of the Salzburg Diplomatic Academy and an alumnus of the United Nations Leadership Academy. He also worked for the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies.

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