By: Stephen A. Innamorato, III
Many have heard the adage that much truth is said in jest. This was illustrated brilliantly in the 1986 comedy movie, “Back to School”.
In that movie, a middle age Rodney Dangerfield goes to college. He’s sitting in history class one day listening to a lecture by his younger, somewhat offbeat professor played by Sam Kinison. During the lecture, Kinison goes off on Dangerfield and demands to know why the Korean War dragged on. A petrified Dangerfield responds by basically branding former President Harry Truman as a coward who wouldn’t follow the advice of Gen. Douglas MacArthur and expand the War into China.
MacArthur had good reason for wanting to take the Korean War into China. The Communist Chinese intervened early on in the fall of 1950 to assist North Korea. China entered just as North Korea was about to be defeated by the U.S. and allied forces supporting South Korea. Hence, a conflict which should’ve lasted just a few months dragged on for several years. Since that time it has been clear that Communist North Korea is merely a proxy of China.
For forty years following the end of the Korean War in 1953, neither China nor North Korea posed much of a threat to the U.S. It’s true that during the Cold War they were part of the communist block along with the Soviet Union. But the Soviet Union was the big enemy of the U.S. In the 1970s, former President Richard Nixon was able to draw a wedge within that block by making detente with China. Former President Ronald Reagan later exploited that wedge to put the Soviet Union out of business.
The defeat of the Soviet Union ended the Cold War, but if didn’t end communism. China emerged as the world’s foremost communist nation. That meant North Korea would also survive to cause trouble again some other day.
During the Cold War, economic sanctions were put in place against North Korea which helped render it a third world nation. During that period, North Korea relied heavily on the Soviet Union and China to stay afloat. China continued to prop up the North Korean regime both economically and militarily once the Soviet Union disappeared. Without China’s help, North Korea would’ve imploded from within just like the Soviet Union.
By 1994 it was clear that North Korea was in the early stages of developing nuclear weapons. Rather than deal with the problem, former President Bill Clinton struck a deal with North Korea. North Korea agreed to discontinue its development of nuclear weapons in return for the lifting of the economic sanctions. North Korea was also allowed to keep two of its nuclear power plants in operation on the condition that they would be used strictly for energy production. The deal further called for periodic inspections of the plants to ensure that North Korea wasn’t using them to produce weapons of mass destruction.
Clinton’s deal with North Korea was one of the most foolish and naïve agreements the U.S. ever reached with an enemy. North Korea got the benefit of having economic sanctions lifted while it continued to develop nuclear weapons. North Korea further reneged on its promise to allow inspections of its nuclear plants.
The nuclear agreement which former President Barack Obama concluded with Iran in 2015 is just as dangerous as Clinton’s North Korean deal.
Former President George W. Bush saw the problem of North Korea’s nuclear proliferation early in his administration. Bush even included North Korea in the “axis of evil” nations which posed a national security threat to the U.S. But he was too distracted by the war on terror to stop North Korea’s nuclear development. The Obama/Hillary Clinton foreign policy of “strategic patience” towards North Korea was just an excuse for doing nothing to deal with the emerging threat of a nuclear North Korea.
This leads to the current crisis in North Korea. The rogue nation appears to have developed nuclear weapons. The regime’s young leader, Kim Jong Un (a/k/a Fathead), seems hell-bent on developing missile launching technology that will enable North Korea to use those weapons against the U.S., Japan, and South Korea. To compound the problem, North Korea is now selling some of its nuclear and missile technology to Iran. Iran is a state sponsor of global terrorism and an ally of Russia.
China is either aiding North Korea’s nuclear proliferation, or is looking the other way. Regardless, China has the power to control the situation.
President Donald Trump understands the huge threat posed by a nuclear North Korea and Iran. In subtle ways he’s warning China to reign in North Korea’s Fathead before the U.S. and its allies are forced into action.
An all-out war with North Korea is the last option as that would probably bring China in to protect its proxy state. Russia and Iran may also join the conflict on the side of North Korea. That would lead to a third world war. Hence, Trump has to consider other options before taking any serious military action against North Korea.
About 90% of North Korea’s economy is funded through trade with China. If China’s economy collapses, then North Korea will go down as well. Although China has the second-most powerful military in the world, it still has a third world economy just like the former Soviet Union. This is where Trump’s business skills and a “Reagan” foreign policy approach can be used to cripple China and avert a military crisis.
China is currently violating various trade agreements and treaties in addition to its numerous human-rights violations. China regularly steels the intellectual property rights of others and engages in cyber-attacking. China can be penalized heavily for these violations through economic sanctions, the freezing of its foreign accounts, and endless cyber-attacks on its technology. There can also be a crack-down on North Korea’s drug trafficking and prostitution rings which China uses to launder money. Basically, the U.S. acting together with its allies can put substantial pressure on China and push its economy downward.
Then there are the situations in the South China Sea and Taiwan which are vital to China. Through military and diplomatic maneuvering, the U.S. with allied support could seriously interfere with China’s strategic interests in those regions.
On the other hand, Trump and U.S. allies can create economic incentives for China. In return for those incentives, China would have to remove the Fathead from his leadership position in North Korea and replace him with another regime that isn’t a threat to the U.S. or its allies. Any new North Korean regime would have to surrender its nuclear weapons and missiles. A new regime would also have to allow periodic inspections of its facilities.
The goal here isn’t for the U.S. to rule North Korea. China would obviously object. Besides, the U.S. has had enough of Bush’s nation building experiment. Instead, the objective should be to prevent nuclear proliferation in North Korea and Iran.
The question is whether China wants to risk its own stability and the danger of war just for the sake of keeping the Fathead in charge of North Korea. The belief here is that Chinese leaders in Beijing aren’t willing to put China’s interests at risk just for the sake of keeping the Fathead in power.
The time has come for China to reign in the Fathead and halt North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. China’s leaders shouldn’t forget that President Trump is an admirer of the late Gen. Douglas MacArthur. This may be enough to convince Beijing that the Fathead and his regime in North Korea must go.