As North Korea goes rogue, China will be watching US military movement in the Pacific with eyes wide open

Shubham Ghosh
As North Korea goes rogue, China will be watching US military movement in the Pacific with eyes wide open

Towards the end of President Barack Obama's term in office, when countries like the Philippines and Malaysia started drifting away from the United States — which was making thorough plans to corner China in the Asia-Pacific — Beijing saw a diplomatic victory.

But now, China has a big problem on hand and it's quite ironic.

The biggest threat to its security in the region, which is already a volatile one, is found to be intensifying not because of Japan, South Korea, or Vietnam, but because of North Korea, its traditional ally.

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Pyongyang's stubborn stance of going ahead with its military adventures in the region has flagged off an irreversible militarisation, with the US sending its first consignment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to the Osan Air Base in South Korea.

The US Army's announcement on the same came just a day after North Korea test-fired four ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, one of Washington's oldest and firmest allies in the East Asian theatre.

For the US and its allies, North Korea's provocative act of test-firing missiles is excuse enough to mobilise their defence mechanism, while for the Chinese, it's a grave signal that completely neutralises the strategic advantage it was gaining over the US in the region, just a few months ago.

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North Korea's mindless act will also cement Tokyo-Seoul-Washington axis

North Korea's reckless actions will also give relief to countries like Japan and South Korea who were seeing their relations with Donald Trump's America grow uncertain: Trump had pledged to not blindly come to the US's allies' defence.

Now, with Pyongyang's mad leader doing his darndest to upset the proverbial apple cart, the Tokyo-Seoul-Washington axis will only get stronger.

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This leaves Beijing stressed. China is experiencing an unprecedented low in its relations with North Korea of late, after it failed to rein in Kim Jong-un's dangerous ambitions.

There are many factors that have forced this current situation.

China's suspending coal imports from North Korea and the latter condemning it as one who danced to America's tune.

The killing of Kim Jong-un's half-brother Kim Jong-nam who was under China's implicit protection in Malaysia, and the assertion through this murder that North Korea is capable of using chemical weapons beyond its borders.

The steady deterioration of relations between North Korea and Malaysia, with which China has found a renewed camaraderie to keep the Americans at bay, are seriously hampering age-old equations between Beijing and Pyongyang.

The Chinese, who initially found North Korea's provocations against the US encouraging, have now discovered that the waters are rising, and they may not know how to swim all that well.

Current scenario reminds one of the Cuban Missile Crisis of the early 1960s

The current scenario reminds one of the Cuban Missile crisis of the early 1960s.

Then, the John F Kennedy-administration took the world to the brink of a nuclear war after ballistic missiles from the former Soviet Union were found heading for next-door Cuba, a staunch Soviet ally.

The world stood on the precipice, and it was only after the United Nations intervened, that a nuclear apocalypse was averted.

In North Korea, however, the missiles have not been planted by China's enemies, but they may have definitely created the same security threat perception for the Chinese as the Americans experienced in 1962.

Beijing has a serious problem on hand either way and with North Korea inching to the point of no return, one wonders what's in store for East Asia in the days to come.

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