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China’s Historical Hesitancy To Crack Down On North Korea

Former Navy Officer say there is more than one reason for China's continued inaction on it's rogue neighbor

As President Trump calls out China once again for potentially violating U.N. sanctions by providing oil to North Korea, satellite imaging suggests that the rogue regime is preparing for another ballistic missile test.  Though China has been more compliant with sanctions on North Korea under the new administration, historically the country has been hesitant to act against it’s troublesome neighbor.

Brigham McCown, CEO of Nouveau Consulting and a former Navy officer once responsible for overseeing air warfare strategy on the Korean Peninsula, says there are several reasons for this hesitancy.  First, McCown says that the larger country enjoys having it’s smaller neighbor as a buffer state between itself and  a U.S. presence.  As an ally to America, South Korea’s goal has long been reunification with the North. According to McCown, that something the Chinese are not so warm on.  “They don’t want an American presence on their doorstep,” added McCown.

“They don’t want an American presence on their doorstep."

McCown says that the Chinese perspective remains that a unified Korea is not in the best interest of China.  Neither is it in the interest of Russia either says McCown.  The two separate states are a leftover from the ending of World War II in the Pacific where the Korea’s were divided along the 38th parallel.

Secondly, China fears the effects of a destabilized North Korea.  China is not alone in that fear, hence a multiple decade diplomatic approach to the wayward nation.  In the event of a regime change, no clear successor is evident deterring Western nations like the U.S. from simply “taking him out.”  According to McCown, the most likely scenario could involve one of the generals taking over the country.  Due to the nature of this “secret society,” very little is known about individuals that could potentially be installed as leader in the event of a regime change.  Also, North Koreans have had very little exposure to the outside world.  McCown says one of the concerns is that such a successor might not understand the full capabilities of a coalition that includes America, South Korea, Japan and others in the region prompting them to commence military action in the region.

A destabilized country due to regime change would most likely result in an influx of migrants trying to cross the border of North Korea into neighboring countries, especially China. A regime change could also result in a vacuum, as seen in Iraq, which could be very destabilizing for the entire region.

“How credible do we think he is in getting a missile to the U.S. and how does that change the game going forward?”

With Kim Jong Un looking to test another ballistic missile soon with the goal of reaching the continental United States, the reasons for not taking military action become less and less relevant.  McCown warned that another missile test at the beginning of the new year is highly likely and the occurrence of such begs the question, “How credible do we think he is in getting a missile to the U.S. and how does that change the game going forward?”

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