In China We Trust, Hopefully

The world faces a heightened sense of emergency in the wake of the most recent North Korea’s headlining missile launch.

In Kim Jong Un’s annual New Year’s address in January, the North Korean leader announced that the country’s race to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile, capable of waging wars, is almost at its end. The unpredictable and totalitarian regime is capable of inflicting unprecedented calamity to the U.S. and the world is no longer off-limits as the country makes more enemies by intimidating other nations. The nation’s supreme leader has not failed to show the world the spectacle of his ambition, recklessness and cold-blooded killing sprees to secure absolute control.

North Korea’s official newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, has reported that millions have enlisted to join or re-join the army in the country’s fight against the U.S. threats. The report condemns the newly installed United Nations sanctions for retribution of North Korean missile threats; showing no hint of a stand-down from the North Korean leader.

The new erratic President Donald Trump vowed that the U.S. will respond in “fire and fury.” Recent tensions have suspended six-party talks among Japan, South Korea, Russia, China, U.S. and North Korea; escalating the anticipation of war. Chinese President Xi Jinping has warned U.S. president that there must be peaceful resolution hours after Trump’s boastful response to the North Korean threat saying the U.S. was “locked and loaded.”

Raising the heat, Trump tweets, “If he [Kim] utters one threat … or if he does anything with respect to Guam or anyplace else that’s an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it, and he will regret it fast.”

However, U.S. Secretary of State has alluded to the potential for dialogue by mentioning, “We have other means of communication open to them [North Korea], to certainly hear from them if they have a desire to want to talk.” In addition, Jim Mattis, US defence secretary, emphasized that American efforts are diplomatically driven and anything less of it would be “catastrophic.”

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokeswoman says that Britain is looking at peaceful diplomatic ways to pressure North Korea after their recent widely-publicized nuclear tests.

May’s spokeswoman alludes to the implementation of various measures but more importantly, “It’s our view in the UK that … peaceful, diplomatic means are best.”

China has been pressured to offer more diplomatic resolutions of the crisis by imposing economic sanctions on North Korea’s ailing economy. China’s fear of war stems from the possibility of North Korean refugees swarming across the Chinese-Korean border as a result of the demise of the North Korean administration. It is this shift in China’s position which poses a budding diplomatic solution to the North Korean threat to world peace. Kim Jong Un’s indifference to his subjects and their livelihoods rendered previous sanctions impotent; however, China’s transition has leveraged and substantiated the threats against North Korea.  This ambitious hypothesis is based on the good-faith of China, which is questionable on the rocky basis of its previous back-channel funding to North Korea by allowing companies and banks to conduct commercial relationships with North Korea. Thus, the real severance of China’s economic ties with North Korea will be leverage enough to coerce change or subdue progression, at the bare minimum.

The world stands at a crossroad where North Korea’s position as a threat could be arbitrated as an emerging world of cooperation and peace. Rather than seeing North Korea as a threat, it could become a budding potential investment and trade partner, following in the footsteps of China’s transition in 1978. A seemingly desirable peace treaty could normalize civilized relations between North Korea and the U.S. to subdue the nuclear threat. However, Kim Jong Un’s escalation of commitment may mean that he will not be willing to render his current development of nuclear weapons redundant. At the minimum, a resolution proposed by Siegfried Hecker suggests the possibility of a commitment to “four no’s:” no more bombs, no better bombs, no missile testing, and no export of bombs.

Forceful retaliations or preemptive strikes have been on the tables for successive U.S. administrations in the face of the North Korean totalitarian regime. However, such strikes have been subdued because it is unlikely to dampen the country’s nuclear program nor destabilize the regime to a worthwhile extent. Not only will martial action be ineffective in intimidating the country, it will raise tensions at the world’s expense. The reality of the imponderable lay before the nations: refugees, races to expedite nuclear weapons and peril for the North Korean subjects.

However, analysts have contended that the least bad military option is for China to take care of its unpredictable neighbour. The selling point of such contention is that China can shift East Asia’s strategic balance, render North Korea subject to Chinese control and eliminate a threat for the U.S. However, at what expense? The world will see a more fearfully dominating China, U.S. will feel even more brazen than before and the world spectates as North Korean subjects are forced to endure even more torturous conditions: war.

Reports suggest that any strategic miscalculation on either side may have catastrophic consequences such that one should not consider the threats to be unsubstantiated. To that extent, the isolation of North Korea puts it in an advantageous position as the world is left to speculate. This is an even more chilling thought as the major world leaders play a game of nerves. The thought of what awaits us and what could be launched at us is imponderable and the possibilities are unbounded as we face such an unstable regime and the world is left to stew in its own fear.

In summary, diplomatic solutions are the only remotely viable plan to subdue the North Korean threat. Chinese-backed sanctions are our only hope. As North Korea’s main trading partner and economic pillar, China’s shift in attitude can be the turning point of the long-standing intercontinental hostility. However, the instability of North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un and his relentless threats to world peace might dictate a far more undesirable, violent future for the world.

Karen Cheung