It is time to worry rather more, by focusing instead on China and its policy towards North Korea. For what China’s reaction should tell us is that China’s interests in the Korean Peninsula are different from those of the West, of South Korea or of Japan. And in that divergence of interest lies danger: it makes North Korea the likeliest flashpoint for a potential conflict between China and America.
On other issues, the Chinese leadership is widely lauded for its fast and effective decision making ”” on bulldozing old city centres, for example, or building motorways and power stations, or giving aid to African governments in return for mining rights. Far better than those fusty old democracies, mutter the admirers. So why, we should all be asking, are they so slow to make up their minds about North Korea and its acts and threats of war?
The official line is that China is concerned about stability in North Korea and fears a huge influx of refugees across its long border with that country if Mr Kim’s regime should collapse. A further line, peddled more quietly by Chinese officials, is that China doesn’t really have much influence over those strange, unpredictable Koreans. So all it can do is take part in the six-party talks over North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme, an on-off exercise that gathers together America, China, Japan, Russia and the two Koreas, urge everyone to show restraint, and hope for the best.
This line, always pretty thin, is looking ever thinner….
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