Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Fallout from Pyongyang Hydrogen-Bomb: Beijing's Nightmare Is the Collapse of Its North Korean Ally

I never gave any of these h-bomb reports any credibility, although the major newspapers dutifully gave the story front-page coverage, to say nothing of CNN's breaking bombshell news coverage.

In any case, see Andrew Browne, at the Wall Street Journal, "North Korea’s Strategy Puts Beijing in a Bind":
SHANGHAI—The Korean Peninsula stands as a gateway to China. It kept the old emperors constantly on guard—and their successors today are no less vigilant.

Beijing’s nightmare is the collapse of its North Korean ally that might well bring U.S. military forces rushing all the way to the border, controlling routes that lead through China’s northeastern industrial heartland to the doors of the capital.

That strategic reality emboldens the family dynasty that runs North Korea. Wednesday’s detonation is the latest example—and the most outrageous one, if Pyongyang’s claims to have set off a hydrogen bomb are true—of how North Korea works on Beijing’s deepest anxieties. The “Young General” Kim Jong Un knows that his country is an indispensable buffer for China—“lips to teeth,” as the Chinese say. He can do virtually anything, and get away with it.

The dictator has cast what Pyongyang claims is its fourth nuclear test as a challenge to America; it fits into a long-established pattern of reckless antics designed to grab attention in Washington, force a crisis and extract diplomatic concessions.

But he is also playing a familiar psychological game with a neighbor that supplies his impoverished country’s food and energy and keeps his despotic regime alive.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, a stern authoritarian, is hardly a leader with whom to be toyed. And he has gone further than his predecessors in showing his exasperation with behavior that threatens not only peace in the neighborhood but also China’s own economic security. If Mr. Kim is persona non grata in Beijing—and the fact that China has yet to invite him leads to that conclusion—the South Korean leader, Park Geun-hye, has become a favorite houseguest. She is a regular visitor, showing up most recently last year in a front-row seat at a massive military parade to mark Japan’s defeat in World War II.

In a part of the world where politics often plays out in symbols, diplomatic invitations given or withheld have exaggerated significance...
Keep reading.

BONUS: At the New York Times, via Memeorandum, "White House Disputes North Korea's Claim of Hydrogen Bomb Test."