So the North Koreans have killed a couple more South Koreans in an attack on the island of Yeonpyeong, and South Korea is shooting back (photo above). So you got up this morning and went about your business as usual. It’s all happening so far away. And it’s happening to Koreans. You probably don’t even know any Koreans – from the North or the South.
But the Korean conflict is not somebody else’s war. It’s an American problem. And it could be the spark that ignites a global confrontation of disastrous proportions.
Americans have fought and died in Korea during my lifetime. And that war has never officially ended. You may recall – or at least have read about – General McArthur’s threat to invade China back then – and President Truman’s decision to fire him.
Of course, that was a long time ago. And things have changed a lot since then.
The pundits I’ve read this morning are attributing North Korea’s current belligerence to internal politics.
They argue that “Dear Leader” Kim Jong Il is building a reputation for his son, “Comrade Youth Captain” Kim Jong Un, to justify plans for the youngster to succeed him. So the recent sinking of a South Korean vessel, which killed 46 sailors, and “discovery” of surprisingly advanced nuclear technology at Yongbyon would be just political theater.
This is undoubtedly part of the story, but I suspect there’s more.
North Korea owes its existence to China. without Chinese aid, the “republic” would inevitably collapse. So I think it’s reasonable to assume that Kim Jong Il is not doing anything without China’s approval – or at least China’s permission.
With China on a crusade to corner the world’s raw materials and dominate the world’s export markets, and with the recent disputes with America over U.S. tariffs and Chinese currency, relations between the two nations are unusually tense. And I’m sure you know that the two nations have long been at odds over Taiwan independence.
At this point in its history, America must appear severely weakened to the Chinese leaders, what with the trillion-dollar American IOU they’re holding, the draining “war on terror” and the bitter political divisions in the U.S.
Could they figure this is the time to draw America into a military confrontation?
I know. Unthinkable. But what would happen if America once again stepped in to defend South Korea?
Earlier this month, during a speech to U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, President Barack Obama declared:
Pyongyang should not be mistaken. The United States will never waver in our commitment to the security of the Republic of Korea. We will not waver.
And in a pre-dawn statement this morning, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs called on North Korea to “to halt its belligerent action and to fully abide by the terms of the armistice agreement.”
So far, we haven’t heard from China’s leaders. Perhaps they plan to stay out of it.