CHINA HAS NURTURED DANGEROUS NORTH KOREA
North Korea has been launching missiles with unprecedented frequency since the beginning of the new year. Presumably, Pyongyang is intending to entice Washington into negotiations in a desperate effort to obtain relief from United Nations sanctions.
On September 3, 2017, North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test since 2006 on the biggest scale ever for that country, experimenting with a 160-kiloton hydrogen warhead roughly ten times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Two months later, on November 29, Pyongyang launched an ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile). It was only natural that the UN imposed stringent economic sanctions. Observed Korean Peninsula expert Tsutomu Nishioka:
“The international sanctions led by then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his American counterpart Donald Trump have had a devastating effect on the North Korean economy. Although trains and buses have recently resumed operation between China and North Korea, one cannot say full-fledged bilateral trade has resumed. It will be a long time before the North’s chronic shortage of goods will be resolved. Because of coronavirus restrictions which suspended the import of paper and ink from China, among other things, the nation’s central bank, unable to print banknotes, has been forced to issue flimsy ‘cash coupons’ known as ‘Tongpyo.’”
The authorities have directed North Korean citizens:
“Users of the coupons are ordered to well understand that the quality of the paper is not good, always handle them with maximum care and keep them clean, refrain from dirtying or damaging them under all circumstances, and display patriotism in order to be able to keep them in circulation as long as possible.”
The North’s food crisis has been serious. Last year, the Workers’ Central Committee met three months in succession—January, February, and June—to implement emergency measures to overcome the shortage. Despite this, even distributions to elite army and party executives were not always reliable.
Behind the intense flurry of missile tests pushed by Kim Jong-un, one sees a desperate desire to break free of his current predicament through negotiations with the US. One could also interpret Kim’s decision to go ahead with missile launches as a manifestation of his fear of the US military.
On September 20, 2017, three weeks after the aforementioned hydrogen bomb experiment, Trump sent two Guam-based B-1B Lancers to the Korean Peninsula. The supersonic strategic bombers flew along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and, escorted by more than a dozen warplanes, including two F-16s and two F-15 Ks, conducted an air raid exercise off Wonsan on North Korea’s east coast, where Kim was temporarily staying. The situation on the Korean Peninsula was that close to a real war at the time, and US forces could have killed Kim then. Trump reportedly was complaining that the exercise off Wonsan was too costly, while Defense Secretary James Mattis was later quoted as recalling how anguished he was at the time as someone in a position to recommend the use of nuclear weapons against the North to Trump, if necessary.
Sensing that America’s anger was real, Kim abruptly suspended nuclear and missile tests soon afterwards.
Today, five years later, the US is deploying five aircraft carriers in the western Pacific—more than enough cause for concern for Kim. Former Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera pointed to the possibility of a cornered Kim growing belligerent, explaining:
“Unlike the North Korea policy pursued by Trump, President Biden’s reflects no conciliatory posture. I think Kim fired the mid-range missile capable of targeting Guam in a frustrated attempt to show off his power. The North may even test an ICBM following the Winter Olympics in Beijing. In that case, the US will have to face adversaries on three fronts simultaneously—Russia eying Ukraine, North Korea, and China.”
When Ukraine Succumbs to Russia
At the end of last August, Biden implemented a clumsy pullout of US troops from Afghanistan ostensibly to deal squarely with China rather than dealing with China and the Middle East at the same time. But the situation has since changed drastically, with the US now facing the possibility of facing three adversaries all at once.
It is anybody’s guess how the Ukrainian strategy of Vladimir Putin will play out. Putin’s Russia invaded a foreign country during two past Olympics—the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing and the 2014 Sochi Winter Games in Russia. There is a possibility of Russia deciding to invade Ukraine this year, too. In that event, will the US be able to overcome adverse consequences by merely resorting to the economic sanctions it has been warning Russia of? Won’t the US be urged by its NATO allies to take tougher action? Unless the US lends a hand, Ukraine will likely be brought under Russian control. And when Ukraine is brought to its knees without America doing anything about the situation, China will view it as a golden opportunity to increase pressure on Taiwan from all sides. This will likely be an existential threat to Japan, too.
To explain how evil China is, I will refer the reader to The Nuclear Express: A Political History of the Bomb and Its Proliferation by Thomas C. Reed and Danny B. Stillman (Zenith Press, Minnesota, USA; 2009). Reed is former Secretary of the Air Force under Presidents Ford and Carter. As Special Assistant to President Reagan for National Security Policy, he contributed to formulating the Soviet policy of the Reagan administration which led the Soviet Union to its collapse without a war. Stillman is a nuclear specialist who worked 28 years for Los Alamos National Laboratory, well known for the research and development of the atomic bomb.
The 400-book makes a special mention of the role Deng Xiaoping played in proliferating nuclear weapons throughout the Third World: “…during the Deng years, 1981-1989, China became highly supportive of nuclear proliferation into the Third World. China transferred technology to Pakistan, attempted to build a secret plutonium-producing nuclear reactor in the Algerian desert, and sold to Saudi Arabi intermediate-range missiles suitable only for the delivery of nuclear weapons. Further, China has tolerated a nuclear weapons program within North Korea and has catered to the nuclear ambitions of Iranian ayatollahs in a blatant attempt to secure an ongoing supply of oil. China has also become the leading supplier of other WMD technology into the Third World.” Allow me to site several other pertinent passages below.
Following North Korea’s first nuclear experiment in 2006, UN members called for all ships entering and leaving North Korean ports to be inspected, but China violently opposed this. Moreover, it allowed “many a proliferant state to overfly China when picking up illicit goods in North Korea.”
Immediately before the US entered the war against Iraq in 2003, “China supplied Iraq with critically needed missile components. China also supplied Iraq with missile-guidance software disguised as ‘children’s computer software.’ In the early 1980s, China transferred a nuclear weapon design package to Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan, (who) reconveyed that information on to Libya, Iran, and others.” （The book cites a host of other examples of China’s transgressions that I will not introduce due to lack of space.）
As regards China’s posture toward the US during this period, the authors conclude: “(We) are of the view that some within the government of China might not object to the nuclear destruction of New York or Washington, followed by the collapse of American financial power, so long as Chinese fingerprints could not be found at the scene of the crime.”
The going will not be easy for the US. What Japan must do at this juncture is do its utmost to bolster its national resilience and strategically work more closely with its vital Pacific ally. A joint declaration by President Biden and former Prime Minister Yoshihide in Washington last April committing to peace and security in the Taiwan Strait, and a pledge to ‘deflate’ China’s might made by the US secretaries of defense and state and their Japanese counterparts last month have brought the two allies closer together. Japan and the US have thus renewed their commitment to cooperate with each other to deter China, and to take military action, if necessary, to “respond” to destabilizing activities in the region on the clear understanding that the security of Taiwan in effect overlaps with that of Japan.
When it comes to a conflict in which our adversaries will attack us with missiles, we will definitely need the capability to strike enemy bases, as our missile defense system will not be able to effectively deter sophisticated hypersonic missiles. To sufficiently address the threats of China, Russia, and North Korea each brandishing nuclear weapons, Japan must expeditiously review its “three non-nuclear principles” (“non-possession,” “non-production,” and “non-introduction” of nuclear weapons), eliminating “non-introduction” to make room for American nuclear-tipped missiles to be deployed on our islands. It is time we realized that tactical nuclear force is the greatest deterrence against hostile acts.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 986 in the February 10, 2022 issue of The Weekly Shincho)