China has long dreamed of being the global power that dominates the Asia-Pacific realm. For decades, the Communist regime has worked to ramp-up defense spending, secure supply chains of natural resources from Africa and South America, and build man-made islands in the South China Sea. All of these efforts have been in the pursuit of one primary goal: to supplant the United States as the leading power in the Pacific. This reality is now the backdrop of China’s desire to be the diplomatic “go-between” between the United States and North Korea.
Presidential Administrations since Richard Nixon’s have looked to China to act as a check on the North Korean regime. Since Nixon’s famous 1972 visit to Chairman Mao Zedong, the Communist Chinese government has used North Korea as a geopolitical chess piece that keeps it relevant in global affairs. Since the Kim dictatorship began with Kim Il-Sung in North Korea following the end of WWII, with communist backing, the government of China has been the lifeblood of the regime.
China has kept the Kim dictatorship in power for over 70 years. Over 80% of North Korea’s food and foreign aide comes from China, which has staved-off a coup against the Kims. At the same time, China has assured America, and the rest of the world, that they are worried about the actions of the madman in Pyongyang. They try and have it both ways; China’s communist government enables North Korea’s recklessness, and then steps-in to tamp it down when it is politically advantageous.
This trend has been on full display in this latest round of North Korean aggression. As Kim Jong-Un has been test-firing missiles and threatening the United States, China has reprised its role as the power broker. It’s a tired theme that is becoming unbelievable. If China is serious about containing the threat of North Korea, they should cut off foreign aid until Kim agrees to abandon his nuclear weapons program. China will never actually hold North Korea accountable, however, because it serves a vital national interest to China: preventing the unification of the Korean Peninsula.
South Korea is an American ally. A thriving country committed to democratic ideals, free-market principles, and religious liberty, South Korea is a threat to Chinese dominance of the region. If the North Korean dictatorship collapses, and Korea unites under a free government, China’s influence will be checked. As such, China will never seriously pressure North Korea to end its recklessness so long as it acts as a check against China’s fear of a United Korea.
American policy must reflect this reality if we are ever going to actually neutralize the threat of North Korea. We should stop seeking Chinese intervention as the primary check on North Korea and, instead, pressure them directly by economic and military might. In order to check the Chinese communist party’s propping-up of this tin-horned dictator, America should reaffirm our commitment to Taiwan (also known as free China) as a check on communist attempts to unify China under communist rule. This will make the Chinese government rethink its dangerous triangulation game involving North Korea.
President Trump’s decision to send an “armada” to the North Korean coast is a strong and welcome step. This resolve must now lead to a renewed U.S. Naval presence in the Asia-Pacific realm along with renewed American economic leadership in the region. By reaffirming America’s resolve in Southeast Asia, while strengthening our alliances with democratic countries like South Korea, we can neutralize the threat of North Korea without playing into China’s plan for superpower status.