December 13, 2017
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North Korea is playing a calculated game
The North Korean issue is fast snowballing into a major challenge to global security by the reclusive regime which is clamoring for war. Indeed, the war rhetoric suits Kim Jung Un’s regime more than Trump administration. This war hysteria although artificially created to meet the demands of some other powers is too helping Un’s government which is facing a bleak economic future. North Korea knows that Trump is a mere paper tiger and can do no harm to him as long he has the support of China – the key benefactor. Indeed, China’s role is equally dubious than that of Un’s government in promoting war cry. It is getting clear with each passing day that apart from China, Russia is also an active player in the entire game. Some believe that this is one unfinished business of the history which can only be settled militarily. It needs a grand display of hard power. At the same time, Trump’s options are reducing each day as China and Russia are operating with North Korea separately since their interests are different. Both want to achieve their purpose at the cost of the entire region and the world at large. This is going to reset the geopolitical order and if war breaks out then a regime change is going to take place. Ultimately, the entire North East Asia and South East Asia will pay a heavy price for the cataclysmic event. Since Trump is fast losing his relevance in US politics, a new theatre of war will prove to be quite a rallying point for most Americans who want greater punishment for Un’s regime. The two Koreas who are at the forefront of this war game and rhetoric can only benefit marginally. At a ground level there is no true gain for anybody but at a geopolitical level there can be immense beneficiaries. China wanted to prop up Un’s regime against South Korea and Japan to check their rise and decimate any challenge by both of them to the Chinese forward policy in the region. But Beijing wanted a controlled response and not bringing US directly into the war game. Since Beijing is worried that American war machine once enter into South Korea can be a setback to Chinese foreign and economic policies, it never wanted any Russian role in the whole game. But Un seems to be quite a master player in this power play. He has quietly involved Russia in the Korean affair.

But Russia is now trying to sideline China as a major power in the region through North Korea. During a visit to Beijing early this year, Un was so angry that he left China in the middle of the night after ordering a special plane for his departure. China had called him for a secret visit as the American pressure was mounting on Beijing at that time. Then China relented to the point that Un’s backing from Moscow is increasing. Although China is secretly part of Un’s missile and nuclear program and has benefitted immensely, North Korea wants to diversify its dependence outside the realm of Beijing. China has a bitter memory of Cambodia and Vietnam wars where Russia was a secondary player but later pushed China aside and took central role. Even Russia is worried about China which pushed the then Soviet Union out of Korean theatre without any prior notice. Since China is fast expanding and that too at the borders of Russia, Moscow is quite unease about such geopolitical move by Beijing. Already Russia is deploying large number of short to medium range missiles and activating seven air fields which were lying dormant till yesterday. The Russian idea is if the US enters into the North Korea then Moscow might play a role what China played in the 1950s. That can be a dangerous proposition for Beijing which is looking for a role for itself and that too in a graduated response where it can cut deals with US. China does not want a hefty escalation of the situation but Russia wants a full scale war. This suits Russia more than China. Off late, North Korea is also reducing buying food grains and essential commodities from China and opening trade points with Russia which were dormant for decades.

Last month, North Korea sent a high level 200 member delegation to Russia to look for alternate routes for goods and cargo supplies in case China stops its border with North Korea in the event of a crisis. On the top of it, China is afraid of Un as Beijing has layers of relationship with his regime. A top North Korean general has revealed to a Russian newspaper that China had sent some of its own missiles to be tested by North Korea. Since Beijing is not having quick reaction missiles in its arsenals as its doctrinal principles did not allow for new research into smart short range missiles in the past, China is now looking for short range tactical missiles for a limited conflict. North Korea is proving to be a testing range for the Chinese missiles which otherwise could complicate the situation for China if Beijing goes for its own testing of missiles. This might signal that China is preparing for a war with another nation or igniting fresh tension with neighbors. Since China has many disputes with all its neighbors and new territorial claims are still on the way, China has used extensively North Korean testing range for its own purpose. A slight revelation of this truth might embarrass Beijing greatly and dampen its great power ambition partially. On the top of it, North Korea which was monitoring Russian war game in Syria is quite impressed with Russian war machines. In fact, Un calls Putin as a great leader who can defeat any US move. So a Korean crisis is going to stay for as while till the world powers get their shares of the deals.