What to do about China?

The South Asian and Pacific nations must react to both China’s ambitions and a nuclear North Korea.

By Rajendra Prabhu.

The entire Pacific Rim is heating up with military posturing and geopolitical negotiations. On one side, the uncertain allies in Pyongyang and Beijing are both asserting dominance in their own way; on the other, strategic alliances are forming between America, India, Japan, and Australia to counter them.

China has warned its maritime rivals not to interfere with its claims to the South China Sea islands, claims that are contested by Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, and other Southeast Asian nations. The dragon has been building airstrips and naval facilities in order to reinforce its dominance over the disputed islands. In early March, America reiterated its intention to mass its naval and air power to keep the Pacific sea lanes and their $5 trillion annual trade free of interference. Meanwhile, North Korea threatens the United States, its southern counterpart, and other nations in the region with its nuclear ambitions. Beijing may be keeping Pyongyang as a wild card in its geopolitical hand.

Nuclear Threats

Within this scenario, North Korea has been the most aggressive Pacific nation, actively threatening preemptive nuclear strikes. The U.N. Security Council, including Russia and China, actively oppose Pyongyang’s tests of its long-distance missiles: the Taepodong-2, which has a range of 6,000 km and according to North Korean officials can carry satellites or miniaturized nuclear weapons. These tests underscore the nation’s open threat to South Korea, Japan, and the U.S. Pacific bases.

China has joined the other powers in condemning the actions of the authoritarian, one-family regime in Pyongyang. Reports in Western and Hong Kong media say that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un had his uncle executed by feeding him to hungry dogs and had the army chief executed by firing squad, ostensibly for challenging the regime. Jong-un is the third member of the Kim family to rule North Korea.

In the face of almost daily threats from the North, Seoul has sought to push forward stalled negotiations for a permanent peace framework between the two halves of the Korean peninsula. The North needs the …

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