North Korea's nuclear test-Beijing's loss?
So they've done it-probably a failure of American misguided policy of containment but what now? IMO, this is a clear example of deterrence-Pyongyang has no expansionist agenda, but a survivalist one. The American hardline policy has been a dismal failure, though one must be clear not to condemn them when they have to deal with a brutal dictatorship with no regard for the welfare of its citizens. One does not get anywhere by being too soft with a brutal dictatorship (Munich anyone?)but burning bridges too easily hardly solves matters either. But is China the big loser in all this?
If Pyongyang has no expansionist agenda, then Beijing has dismally failed to persuade the Stalinists that they will guarantee their security. Partly this is due to a warming economic relationship between China and the US, partly because China is getting sick and tired of North Korea's brinkmanship and penchant for playing with fire. When China made it clear that it might not be so 'protective' of Pyongyang should it continue thumbing its nose at the world community, Beijing must have thought that that was enough of a message for Kim Jong-Il to pull his head in; instead it probably drove him to decide that not even China can be relied upon anymore.
At the end of the day, it is China that looks amateurish, and this it will not take lightly. China is nothing if not consistent and credible and Pyongyang may well have miscalculated should Beijing now actively agitate (sureptitiously naturally) for the removal of the regime. But will a North Korean collapse now lead to re-unification? Surely not without China's okay as there is no way Beijing will allow an American controlled Seoul government to possess a nuclear warhead at its border. What then? Persuade Seoul to give up the atomic bomb upon re-unification or rather annex the northern portion of Korea? This would not be unprecedented and Korea has experienced the imperialist tendencies of China and Japan. Annexing North Korea may well prove to be not a huge surprise, though still somewhat unlikely and far-off.
Should Japan and South Korea obtain nuclear weapons then China's loss would be even greater as it loses its military pre-eminence in the region, and should Taiwan then manage to get an ally with either country (highly unlikely given trade with Beijing) then China's political and military clout weakens even further. And what if Taipei gets a nuclear warhead of its own? Surely the lesson from Pakistan, India and now North Korea suggests that it is a great deterrence.
I wonder whether we should be talking about Korea and Japan here, as most people are. Surely it is all about China's loss? I for one will watch developments with great anticipation, for I doubt Beijing will take this slap in the face very lightly indeed....