Preparing for a second Korean War
By Paul Lin 林保華
Taipei Times 2018.1.4

The year 2017 is over, and the issue that will concern everyone the most this year, apart from the economy, is whether there will be a large-scale war.

In his article “Five Places World War III Could Start in 2018” published in The National Interest on Dec. 15, military and defense security expert Robert Farley of the University of Kentucky listed Taiwan second, right after North Korea, out of five places where World War III could break out.

In July last year, The Associated Press’ former Taiwan correspondent Peter Enav said that this year is the most likely time for China to invade Taiwan. Since then, seeing Chinese military aircraft and warships cruise around Taiwan engaged in provocative exercises has become routine.

If China has not prepared itself for war against the US and Japan, war across the Taiwan Strait could be avoided for now. However, it is not impossible that a second Korean War will break out.

North Korea has been arrogant, obstinate and provocative and it is probably just a matter of time before the US will take action. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who wanted to use negotiations to deal with the issue, has now changed his tone.

The further sanctions adopted by the UN recently were mediated between the US, China and Russia. This shows that even if North Korea could be used as a pawn by China and Russia against the US, Moscow and Beijing worry that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s unrestrained behavior will implicate them and there will be a heavy price to pay, especially since North Korea’s nuclear and biochemical weapons are closer to them.

China has not only deployed a considerable force along its border with the North, it also set up a lot of refugee camps after Trump’s visit to China. It would be interesting to know what is being discussed between China and the US.

US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Joseph Dunford in mid-August last year went to Shenyang to visit the People’s Liberation Army’s Northern Theater Command, which is responsible for monitoring the border between China and North Korea.

If China is not willing to cooperate with the US, why would it allow Dunford to visit this sensitive military site?

At that time, China and the US had already talked about setting up refugee camps. Maybe China will charge a fee for cleaning up the mess for the US? The construction of a refugee camp capable of accommodating 500,000 people has now been started.

Not only has North Korea been kept in the dark, South Korea has been too.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has been opposed to war, conveying goodwill to North Korea and getting nothing but a cold shoulder in return. The result is that he has lost the ability to set the agenda.

Moon thought he could win favor with China as long as he opposed the US and Japan. However, China does not take him seriously — not only do Chinese military aircraft encroach on the South’s air defense identification zone, but China has also lifted and then reinstated its policy to boycott South Korean businesses due to the US deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system in South Korea.

However, if China agrees to the US taking military action against North Korea, it would be in exchange for conditions favorable to China. Beijing has always been concerned about the possibility that a second Vietnam could emerge — especially a democratic Korean Peninsula — as it would resist Chinese expansion and could set off a pro-Korean “independence movement” in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in Jilin Province.

Therefore, the US might have promised that it would be responsible for air strikes and that the ground fighting would be China’s job, so that the US does not get stuck in the mud.

China, on the other hand, would resolve the issue by installing a puppet regime that listens to it and would remove nuclear facilities. Kim Jong-nam, the eldest son of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, was China’s original choice of a leader in Pyongyang. He has been assassinated, but his young son survives, making it easy for China to send a “regent” to take control of the North.

Although the Korean Peninsula continues to be divided and a war between China and the US remains a possibility, at least there would be no nuclear threat from North Korea, so any war would be a limited one.

It seems that President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has also received certain information and is positioning Taiwan. What happens to Taiwan once war breaks out will be a matter of great concern.

Paul Lin is a political commentator.

Translated by Lin Lee-Kai

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