As tensions rise again on the Korean peninsula following a bold an unprecedented missile test by Pyongyang and an equally unprecedented show of force by American and South Korean warplanes, the Chinese government has said it is not prepared to allow war or chaos on its border.
The statement was made by defense ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang at a monthly news briefing on Thursday, Sina reports. A Google Translation of the statement noted that Ren also repeated China’s longstanding positions of favoring denuclearization on the peninsula as well as resolving the issue through dialogue.
The statement came after six U.S. warplanes – two nuclear-capable B-1B strategic bombers and four Marine Corps F-35Bs – held a joint flight operation with Japanese F-15 fighter jets on Thursday, Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) said in a statement. After that, the U.S. aircraft, accompanied by South Korean F-15K fighter jets, conducted a joint operation over South Korea as well as bombing drills over the Pilseung range in the eastern province of Gangwon.
Why it’s on our radar: Earlier, President Donald Trump insisted — again — that “all options are on the table” regarding North Korea, a not-so-veiled threat to use military force if need be. He added that “talking is not the answer” and that Pyongyang has been “extorting money” from the U.S. and its regional allies for 20 years — strong indications that he’s not really interested in taking a “diplomacy first” approach to the problem.
China’s position is not shocking, but it definitely complicates things if we are to read it as a threat — and there is no reason not to. China has no interest in seeing U.S. and South Korean troops on its doorstep, and while North Korea is a headache for Beijing, keeping Kim Jong-un in power and North Korea intact serves as a buffer between a democratic nemesis, as well as an even bigger headache for a potential adversary, the United States. Further, we have to remember that North Korea shares a border with Russia, too — and Putin doesn’t want American troops on his doorstep, either.
China and Russia may be more understanding of U.S. and South Korean military action if it’s in response to a direct attack by North Korea, which is not likely. They won’t be so understanding if the U.S. launches preemptively, at least not without Trump first assuring Putin and his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping, the U.S. would have no interest in remaining in Korea after the nuclear threat is neutralized and the Kim regime is gone. Guaranteeing a buffer zone between the borders of a mostly reunited Korea and China/Russia wouldn’t hurt, either.