Thursday, December 14, 2017

North Korea right

Published by
prof. Martin van Creveld

14 December 2017

The View of the Jade Emperor:

Why North Korea is right for China

By: Karsten Riise

It is always a delight to read William S. Lind. His informed way of putting issues on their head is thought-inspiring, and always makes you wiser – even if, as in this particular case, he happens not to be right.

Is North Korea really a disadvantage to China?

In an analysis “The North Korea Threat to China” 9 November 2017, Lind argues, that North Korea should be seen as a threat by China. Briefly put, his argument is that North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons may induce Japan, South Korea, and perhaps even one day Vietnam to acquire their own nuclear arsenal. And that indigenous nuclear arsenals in the hands of China’s immediate neighbors would make it difficult for China to create a buffer-zone of client states around herself.

It serves China

This argument neglects the Olympic fact that China is already confronted by an enormous arsenal of US nuclear weapons, based in South Korea, Okinawa and aboard the US Navy. It also overlooks the fact that some American leaders, due to their country’s faraway location, may be much more prone to risk a nuclear confrontation in East Asia than the indigenous countries inside the region are.

Accordingly, my response to Lind is that China must be happy with North Korea and its nuclear policies. If North Korea can somehow cause the enormous arsenal of US nuclear weapons on China’s doorstep to be swapped for a much smaller nuclear arsenal controlled by the people who live close to China’s borders, and who depend on good relations with China, not only for their survival, but also for their prosperity – then China should be satisfied.

Finally, we must remember that North Korea has a pivotal role as a friendly buffer state for China.

North Korea needs a nuclear deterrent

Unfortunately, North Korea needs nuclear weapons as a deterrent against the USA.

In 1945, the USA used nuclear bombs not once but twice. You might have thought that one such mass-killing was enough. But it wasn’t. General Douglas McArthur wanted to use nuclear weapons against North Korea, but fortunately was prevented from doing so by his president, Harry Truman. At the time, in closed talks, the US leaders shocked the British by casually hinting that the USA was considering attacking Communist China with nuclear weapons. To calm their allies they said that, in that case, they would “avoid striking the bigger cities” (Gribb-Fitzgibbons, Imperial Endgame, 2011). During the Vietnam War Henry Kissinger, according to a TV documentary, raised the possibility of “nuking” North Vietnam, telling Nixon “don’t be so shy about it”.

Numerous historic deliberations of the USA to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear adversaries, and the way the USA breaks its commitment on the Iran nuclear deal, all confirm this.

North Korea needs intercontinental capability

Now you would think that North Korean possession of nuclear weapons capable of devastating its neighbors Japan and South Korea should be enough to deter the USA from attacking. But unfortunately it is not.

The current panic in Washington DC, just as North Korea is on the verge of acquiring missiles capable of reaching the continental USA, proves that, deep inside the minds of US leaders, there has been a false sense of comfort that any US escalation to a nuclear exchange involving North Korea could not touch the American homeland. It even seems to make a difference to US leaders whether North Korea can “only” reach Guam, Alaska or California – or if North Korea can hit their own personal residences in Washington DC. Now, due to North Korea’s new long-range missiles, that false sense of US comfort in its ability to apply nuclear blackmail is about to evaporate.

In other words, North Korea now makes sure that nuclear deterrence in East Asia will become absolutely effective.

It is often argued that North Korea is somehow posing a problem for China. That is entirely wrong. North Korea acts as a “wild-dog on a leash” – and China holds the leash. This is exactly similar to the old play of “good-cop”/“bad-cop.” North Korea plays the role of “bad-cop,” and allows China to play the “moderator.” Thus China can always enter the scene as the “good-regional-cop,” as an indispensable partner in talks with the USA.

China’s play-book works every single time.

China now gets into an even better position vs. the USA

Armed with nuclear missiles capable of reaching Washington DC, North Korea becomes an even better “bad-cop.” As the false sense of comfort of the US leadership vanishes, the “wild-dog” on China’s leash becomes ever more awe-inspiring for the USA.

Now the USA needs China even more, so as to handle the “wild-dog.”

What China – and North Korea – do is, from their point of view, quite correct.

Karsten Riise
Partner & Editor


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

USA needed?

13 January 2016

Why USA is not needed to “balance” China

By: Karsten Riise

In a research paper “Future of Security”, I point out, that if China pushes too hard for egoistic expansion, China will create hostility and be balanced by Russia, India and Japan.

Reading Jack Snyder’s very worth-while book “Myths of Empire”, he develops the term “self-encirclement”. This is in line with classic realist international theory, and it is exactly the process I identified may happen – but only if China pushes too hard, and too egoistically.

China has room for moderate expansion, especially in the South-East Asian direction (the Chinese “Caribbean”), because that area has a power-vacuum, and Taiwan and the South-China Sea are of some legitimate interest to China. But an over-expansionist China will meet the same fate as over-expansionist Germany did – creating a powerful “Entente” of enemies united from all sides.

Chinese are smart people. If China thinks smart, China will enhance its new power-sharing understanding with Russia to encompass India – creating a power-triad – a security community (I refer to Deutsch’s term). Just like USA after WWII has had a global power-sharing with UK, France and Germany.

Japan-Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines can probably all find an acceptable and even beneficial place in such a new China-centered system. Only Taiwan will really need USA to stay independent – and even for Taiwan the USAs relevance in the long run is doubtful, because China is already about to tip the military balance around Taiwan to its favor.

The USA is generally not needed to “balance” China –  the neighbors will do it, if necessary.

Karsten Riise
Partner & Editor


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Taiwan issue

3 October 2015
Taiwan defense predicament 

By: Karsten Riise

China is bent on regaining Taiwan and builds up enormous resources for this end. The USA seems to be the only issue which can (still) complicate matters for China.

According to Chinese strategist Zun Tsu, the best strategy is to win without even having to fight - and I am sure that the political and military leadership of China know their Zun Tsu Classic by Heart. It is also clear, that China is determined to regain Taiwan, even if the effort will take 20 - 50 or 150 years. USA's power in Asia will not last THAT long, that's pretty sure.

So China's move should according to my advice and analysis be to persistently discredit USA's power and interests - especially all over Asia. But also in other parts of the world like Syria, where signs are, that China now seems to send support against USA's declared enemy, al-Assad (China has surely not forgiven, that USA's intervention in Libya kicked out Chinese oil-interests along with 30,000 Chinese oil-workers there).

China must, in my advice, humiliate and negate USA's image of power again, and again, and again.

So much, that Taiwan like all other Asians in the end give up believing in USA's global power and commitment, and Taiwan will cede itself to China. In a kind of negotiated "Hong-Kong solution", keeping a degree of independence for Taiwan within a unified Chinese state.

Karsten Riise
Partner & Editor


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

China financial power

In the years after 2009, US stocks has had many risks of a new crash. This opens for a discussion about financial power.

9 August 2011

Financial Balance of Terror

By: Karsten Riise

US stocks and financial power are going down big time these days (at the time of writing - see stock-chart figure below). China can take tough steps that will further break down the informal empire of the USA.

Let us take a look at China's vital interests:

China needs to secure its access to Oil and raw materials

China sees, how US military controls China's security of raw-materials from the Middle East, Africa and even materials like copper from South America. From a pure military point of view, China has an interest in making the US crisis so bad, that the USA will be forced to cut down the power of US military around China.

This will be the fastest and cheapest way for China to secure a free position in relation to the USA. If China tries to build up its forces to the blown up level of US Forces in Asia, The Pacific, The Indian Ocean, The Middle East and Africa, it can cost a trillion, take many years, and the USA can easily be tempted to risk some problematic kind of military pressure on China, before China gets too far.

China mustFinanc already have recognized that USAs debt is bad value

According to China's Xhinhua news agency, China's own rating agency already degraded the value of US government papers last year. Probably 60%, or $ 1,800 billion of China's $ 3,000 billion in foreign exchange reserves are US dollar debt papers (the exact amount is a state secret). For all practical purposes, if China starts to spend these $ 1,800 billion, they will have a much smaller worth,
because market values of US debt papers will be pressed, and if spent internationally, the dollar rate will also go down. If China presses the USA with chunks of sell-outs of US government debt papers, their value will fall on the market, but that will just reflect old realities.

In fact, China's foreign exchange reserves double every 2-3 years - so why should China not buy some international freedom for all this money?

China does not depend on exports to the USA

China is strong enough to make its own internal growth. China's export to the USA was $ 365 billion, just 23% of China's total exports in 2010, according to Even though Chinese exports to the USA still have very high growth rates, other markets long-term have more growth-potential than the USA:

Latin-America, Asia, Africa and the Middle-East.
In order for China to be free to continue to grow, China may want to liberate itself from USAs military control of Oil and rawmaterials. The US military is even built up with money lent from China. If China accepts losses by selling out US debt papers, China can sharply increase the interest rate of US government debt, and force the USA to big military cuts. A down-turn in the USA will even make oil and raw materials cheaper. And poor Americans will need cheap products even more. Chinese exports to the USA fell 12% in 2009, but rose by a fine 23% in 2010.

A new Financial Crisis 2.0 may benefit China in many ways.

Chinese moves against USA

Last Saturday 6 August 2011, the Chinese state news agency Xinhua sent the following hard message to the USA:

".. if no substantial cuts were made to the U.S. gigantic military expenditure and bloated social welfare costs, the downgrade would prove to be only a prelude to more devastating credit rating cuts, which will further roil the global financial markets all along the way."
Xinhua, 6 August 2011

In the coming weeks, expect China to put high pressure on the USA with silent or open threats of selling out of China's US government bonds in a ways, that will break down USAs economic power. Especially, what China does not want, will be if the US national bank again prints fresh dollars to buy up US government debt in order to 'stimulate' the US stock-market (socalled 'Quantitative Easing').

Everytime the US national bank prints dollars to buy $ 600 billions of US government debt papers, then China could sell US debt papers for $ 600 billions and buy Euro, gold, Oil or African railroads and mobile phone companies instead.

If this is not enough for China, then China can sell out chunks of $ 300 billion US government debt papers. China will gain power and cheaper Oil, but also China may force the USA to let China buy US technology companies, transport and communication - and US companies will even become cheaper the more China lets the US economy sink.

The word 'globalization' will take on a whole new meaning, if China buys some of USAs most valuable companies.

A new global world

China has got its own instabilities and problems. Crisis 2.0 will also challenge China, and many things inside China can break. On the other hand, Crisis 2.0 has already started and Crisis 2.0 cannot be stopped anyway. The USA has never been afraid of putting hard pressure on other nations. Therefore, China might as well act in a tough business way to optimize its chances to get the best out of the fall of the US Empire.

It may be China's biggest opportunity in 1000 years.

Karsten Riise
Partner & Editor