From the perspective of Kim Il-sung, the loss of the war he started, and the partition of his country, was a direct result of Beijing’s arrogance, stupidity, military overlord-ship and conceit.
While some 64 years removed from the end of the Korean War, this lesson has not been lost on the Rocket Man, who is nothing if he is not a rabid believer in his own dynastic right of ascension to lead his country, not to mention his family’s unique leadership skills. The fact that it all started with his grandfather is justification for all of this, if not more. More to the point, almost any problems that one can list as having occurred to North Korea Kim Jong-un believes can be blamed on the Chinese.
Continuing, in August 1956 the grandfather, Kim Il-sung, decided to get rid of any remaining Chinese influence in his government, and so he purged pro-Chinese (as well as pro-Soviet) party officials from his cabinet. This historians believe he did in order to move towards a more autocratic form of government—as though there could be anything more autocratic than his dictatorship.
As an article that appeared in the web blog www.38north.org says of this event,
“Three of Kim’s victims fled to China, where they briefed Mao Zedong on recent developments in the DPRK. Soviet Vice Premier Anastas Mikoyan, in Beijing at the time to attend the Eighth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, also learned of the situation in Pyongyang. Mao and Mikoyan dispatched a joint Sino-Soviet party delegation to investigate the incident. The joint delegation, headed by Chinese Defense Minister Peng Dehuai, the former commander of the Chinese People’s Volunteers during the Korean War, and by Mikoyan, forced Kim Il Sung to convene a new meeting of the KWP, reappoint purged officials, and release others from prison. While there was no direct challenge to Kim’s authority, he clearly perceived the intervention as a violation of Korean sovereignty.
“Mao Zedong was so frustrated by Kim Il Sung’s actions that in a November 1956 conversation with the Soviet Ambassador to Beijing, Pavel Yudin, the Chairman equated Kim with Imre Nagy, the Hungarian “traitor,” and to Joseph Broz Tito, the overly independent Yugoslav leader. Mao even suggested that Kim could be acting in collusion with his South Korean nemesis, President Syngman Rhee. Mao’s remarks would later come back to hurt him. In 1960, as Sino-Soviet relations soured, Moscow sought to drive a wedge between Pyongyang and Beijing, and Khrushchev ordered that the Soviet record of the discussion be shared with Kim. Soviet reports describe Kim being visibly shaken after reading the cable. Kim’s learning of the conversation likely had a lasting impact on the North Korean leader’s perception of Mao and of China. In later decades, Kim harshly criticized the Chinese for interfering in an internal party matter in 1956.
One can understand that for a man hell bent on forming his own dictatorship, having to walk around with a Chinese bit in his mouth left a sour taste. That sour taste he passed on to his son, and he to his son… the erstwhile and current leader of North Korea, the Rocket Man.
We leave this topic at this point, but the reader should understand that many more confrontations occurred between China and North Korea down through the ages… confrontations that have made the two leaders of these countries today just short of enemies. As a final example, among them was an attempt that Kim Il-sung made in the fall of 1964 to put space between himself and the Chinese leadership when Khrushchev fell from power, by sidling up to the new USSR leadership.
The Chinese, having themselves turned their back on the new USSR leadership, saw this as a direct insult. So angry were they with Kim Il-sung for siding with the Russians that during the near entirety of China’s Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution Kim Il-sung was portrayed in the Chinese press as a direct target of criticism. These problems got so bad that the Chinese and North Korean militaries clashed in the vicinity of Mt. Baekdu, in 1969. And it didn’t stop there. In 1973 Chinese troops crossed into North Korean territory and occupied one of its border towns. Kim ordered an attack, but the Chinese slipped back across the border before the attack could be mounted.
For us today, watching the Nork missile and nuclear bomb crises unfold, we do not hear of these things. We think that China, with the snap of a finger or the tap of a chop stick, can tell the Rocket Man what to do. At the very least, we think they are BFFs. Not so.
The Rocket Man is firmly convinced that China is nothing more than an overtly interventionist, disrespectful, ugly neighbor out to challenge his country’s sovereignty. And to prove his point, he reminds his followers that in 1980 when Kim Jong-Il, the Rocket Man’s father, was declared successor to his own father, China openly denounced hereditary succession as a vestige of feudalism. Considering how China used hereditary succession for nearly 5,000 years, this is certainly rich.
Be that as it may be, the point is that from the North Korean perspective what they see is China acting as though it has the right and the authority to make decisions on leadership succession in the DPRK. Our conclusion then is that despite a shared history, border, and, ostensibly a similar ideology, the fact is that beginning in the 1930s, and with more vigor starting again in the 1980s, China and North Korea have grown apart. As 38north.org says,
“In the eyes of the North Koreans, China has abandoned revolution for a place in the existing international system."
In the ultimate act of betrayal, Beijing recognized Seoul in 1992.
“As a result of this tortured history, pressuring China to exercise political influence over North Korea means the United States is asking Beijing to do precisely what Pyongyang has most resented over the years. This will only antagonize North Korea even more.”
Why then is Trump chasing this dream?
The dilemma the Trumpster has is simple: short of going to war against North Korea, there is no solution to the North Korean problem. None, that is, that he can implement by himself.
Let us say this more clearly: while the option of going to war with North Korea does provide a means for Donald Trump to denuclearizing the Korean peninsula and reduce the threat to the United States posed by the Rocket Man, there is nothing Donald Trump can do by himself to peacefully solve the North Korean problem. Once again: not by himself.
In point of fact, there are only two solutions to this problem: one, as we have just indicated, is within President Trump’s own reach—the idea of going to war with North Korea; the other is not. The other requires someone else—the Chinese—to implement it.
In greater detail, the two solutions are these:
Trump’s Call: U.S. declares war against North Korea. Attacks and neutralizes North Korean leadership, unifies country and installs South Korean led government to rule over entire peninsula.
Prognosis: A war on the Korean peninsula will be violent on a
scale never before seen. In 1994, when the U.S. approached the brink
of war with North Korea, estimates were the cost would be 1,000,000
in casualties (military and civilian), at a price tag of over $1
trillion. If anything, war in Korea has become more lethal and
more—much more—costly in terms of blood and treasure. Without doubt,
will destroy the progress and sacrifices the South
Korean people have made over the last half century, to rebuild their
country from the last war. It will also rip apart
Our conclusion: another war in Korea will be as much a failure for Donald Trump as a success.
Rest assured, he knows this, and has no intention of taking this route.
China’s Call: Decapitation of North Korean leadership, and the Rocket Man in particular. Replacement of current government with Chinese puppet government.
Prognosis: Our previous explanation of the extent of distrust between these two countries, and their leaders, should have made the point clear by now that China can not influence, cajole or force the Rocket Man to do things China’s way. The Rocket Man has his own agenda, part of which is to finish the Korean War once and for all, and reunite the Korean peninsula. An additional goal he has is to cement his and his family’s legacy, as well as stick it to China for all the pain they have caused him and his family all of these years.
China’s only option—if it wants to do anything at all—is to decapitate North Korea’s leadership. Strained as they may be, with the relations China now has with the North it would be easy for them to slip Chinese–Korean agents into Pyongyang and overthrow the government. And while this may be possible for U.S. Navy Seals and Special Ops people to do too, China’s PLA Special Ops (中国特种部队) would find the task infinitely easier to accomplish.
In the end, Trump mounting a coup d’état against the Rocket
Man is—for all practical purposes—not a realistic option. The Chinese and the
Russians would not stand for it, never mind the rest of the world. However, if push came to shove,
rather than let Trump go to war against North Korea, invade the
country and set up his own puppet government, the Chinese just might opt
to do it themselves. And if they teamed up with Russia in the process,
there is no doubt that they could both easily pull this off without a whimper from
Assuming that Donald Trump does not want to take Option I then, for this problem to be solved Trump must incent China… and if possible Russia too… to mount a coup designed to replace the North Korean leadership with something and someone more acceptable to all combined.
When seen from this perspective Trump’s hyperventilation over the Rocket Man… his name calling, his bravado military maneuvers over the skies of the Korean peninsula, his threats to destroy the country, and all the rest… are the intended signs of a mad man. Note our word “intended.”
What Trump is doing is what he is supremely good at: negotiating in a manner that puts his counterpart on their back-foot, and frightens them into thinking that if they don’t do something quickly they will be the bigger loser in this confrontation; a bigger loser than America will be.
Why? Because if the U.S. takes Option 1 China’s 40 year effort to keep the U.S. out of its sphere of influence will have come to nothing. Already its not cracking down on the Rocket Man has resulted in South Korea and Japan placing high power radar and missile defense systems on their soil. Will Taiwan be next? The Philippines? Vietnam?
And if the Rocket Man rattles a few more swords, and pisses the mad man Trump off even more, will the U.S. introduce nuclear weapons once again to South Korea? Will Japan agree to go nuclear too? And again, what about Taiwan?
When compared to the placement of U.S. provided nuclear weapons on these countries’ soils, thereby causing China to lose total control over its Pacific sphere of influence, deciding to decapitate the Norko leadership is an easy decision. This becomes especially so when one stops to think that Russia is no more keen to see nuclear proliferation throughout Northeast Asia than China is.
Still not convinced? Think what the U.S. would do to stop a pimple on the butt country like Cuba from setting up nuclear missiles on its territory. The U.S. is not going to allow a rogue nation like Cuba to threaten its hegemony in its own back yard.
The same is true for China. If pimple on the butt North Korea drives South Korea, Japan and Taiwan to arm themselves to the teeth, even including nuclear weapons, all because of North Korea, China will take strong and profound action, even if that means replacing the Kim family with a dictatorship more to China’s—and America’s—liking.
High powered U.S. radar scanning China’s skies, U.S. missile defense systems in its backyard, U.S. nuclear weapons on the islands surrounding it, U.S. naval vessels prowling its coast line, U.S. bomber flyovers, constant, never ending U.S. military maneuvers with China’s closest neighbors… all for what purpose? To allow the Rocket Man to tweak Donald Trump’s nose? Our guess is that this is all becoming terribly tiring for the Chinese, and if it continues it is going to cause China—likely with Russia’s help—to mount a quiet but well orchestrated coup d’état against the North… if only to stop Trump from going nuclear himself.
So why hasn’t China acted already?
The answer to that question is simple: is Donald Trump bluffing, or is he really out of control?
If the Chinese think he’s bluffing, they’ll wait this one out. Because, after all, if The Trumpster does not fill China’s neighbors’ territories with more defense systems and nuclear weapons, ramps down his rhetoric, and does not go to war, then China wins.
How does it win? It wins by having stuck to the side of its irritant but nevertheless “lips to teeth” neighbor… even to the point of allowing it to have nuclear weapons of its own, which one might note, can play a useful role in not only keeping South Korea in line, but keeping the U.S. military at an arm’s length distance away from China’s shores.
But if Trump is truly crazy, and he does begin mounting efforts towards war, then China has to act. It has no choice. It cannot allow the U.S. to take Option 1, decimate North Korea and then reorganize the Korean peninsula to its own liking.
Is The Trumpster crazy, or as sly as a fox? Is he a masterful negotiator, able to play the part of the fool to a T, or is he showing his cards? Either way, our earlier point is true, and Donald Trump knows it: solving this problem is beyond his capabilities. Short of going to war, there is nothing he can do on his own to solve this problem. Better then to scare China… and Russia too… into joint action to decapitate the Rocket Man, than to sit on his hands and wait for him to come to his senses.
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Sources And Background Information
James Pearson, Commentary Foreign Affairs.
The web blog 38north.org; various articles.
“Memorandum on the Conversation between Kim Il Sung and Todor Zhivkov,” October 30, 1973, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive. From the personal collection of former Bulgarian diplomat Georgi Mitov. Translated by Donna Kovacheva.
History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Polish Foreign Ministry Archive; October 16, 1957. Obtained by Jakub Poprocki and translated by Maya Latynski.
For a detailed account of the Minsaengdan incident, see “Colonial Origins ofJuche: The Minsaengdan Incident of the 1930s and the Birth of the North Korea-China Relationship” in J.J. Suh ed. Origins of North Korea’s Juche, Colonialism, War, and Development (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2013), pgs. 33-62.
Editor's Note: In some instances due to textual flow, text from the above sources may have been reproduced without clear attribution. In those cases attempts were made to assure that the content in question was indented to indicate that it was sourced from a third party document.
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This page originally posted 1 October 2017