Since Donald Trump took over at the White House matters have been heating up with regards to North Korea and it's nuclear programme. Some commentators have spoken of the situation being the most tense and dangerous nuclear stand off since the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962. The DPRK has carried out five missile tests since February 2017 clearly intended to rattle the new Trump administration and insert itself into the international relations conversation. In many respects the behaviour and rhetoric of the North Korean regime of Kim Jong Un and the US administration of Donald Trump have been as bad as each other. The aggressive and bellicose nature of Mr. Trump's tweets have only been making matters worse apropos solving the North Korean issue. On April 11th Trump tweeted: «North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A». Or: «North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A».
Meanwhile North Korea has fired back that it would reduce Japan to «ashes», turn South Korea into a «sea of fire», bring about the «collapse of the American Empire» and referring to the US aircraft carrier fleet the USS Carl Vinson which Trump called an «armada» the North Korean propaganda department stated: «A knife will be stabbed into the throat of the carrier». The insults have been reaching such a petty and immature level with American politicians such as 2008 Republican Presidential candidate Senator John McCain labeling the North Korean dictator a «crazy, fat kid» and the North Korean leadership responding by lashing out with threats of war: «[the DPRK] will fulfill its sacred mission» of «dealing a merciless sledge-hammer blow at those daring [to] hurt the dignity of the supreme leadership».
All of this is extremely unseemly and has the potential to back both parties into a corner from which they will not be able to escape. The war of words could end up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy if this delicate situation is not carefully and wisely managed. What has made the situation even more unpredictable and hence dangerous for international peace, security and stability is the Twitter diplomacy of President Trump. The international community has grown accustomed to the hyperbole of North Korea. It is not used to an American President conducting international relations on Twitter with whatever seems to pop into his head every few seconds. These are the strange, dumbed down times the West and the World finds itself in.
Thankfully for all rational, sane, peace loving people there is a country, government and leadership which will solve this problem and bring both the United States and the DPRK back from the brink of nuclear holocaust and that is the People's Republic of China of the wise and brilliant statesmanship of President Xi Jinping. The Chinese prize peace and stability above all else. They understand what it is like to be the victims of imperialism and foreign aggression. That is why, apart from securing and upholding their territorial rights within their own geo-political sphere of influence, they have never invaded another country. While they have one of the world's strongest militaries and largest armies, they have no interest and never have in world domination, and it exists largely for self-defence given the barbarism that China has experienced at the hands of foreign, imperial invading powers throughout its glorious history such as the British and Japanese.
While the United States has a thousand military bases around the world spread over every continent (and that is just the official bases we know about publicly) China only opened its first military base abroad last year in Africa. While American and North Korean politicians and government officials have been engaged in a crude and child like volley of insults and aggressive, chest thumping posturing the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has attempted to calm down the testosterone fueled nonsense. During US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's recent visit to Beijing, Foreign Minister Wang said: «We hope that all parties, including our friends from the United States, could size up the situation in a cool-headed and comprehensive fashion and arrive at a wise decision». China has helpfully stopped coal imports from North Korea and has been doing a lot of work behind the scenes through quiet, patient diplomacy to help persuade the North Koreans to engage in a course correction.
Yet as an Editorial in the Chinese Global Times quite rightly made clear: «The North Korean nuclear issue is caused by Washington-Pyongyang confrontation, to which China has no obligation to shoulder all the responsibilities». It must be remembered that a catastrophic collapse in the North Korean regime could create a massive refugee problem at conflict right on China's border, something which no American Government would want to deal with on its own borders. Indeed, certain sections of American society and political elites have become so averse to immigrants and refugees that Mr. Trump wants to build a wall along the American southern border with Mexico and has attempted to ban indefinitely Syrian refugees and temporarily suspend the United States refugee programme while cutting the number of refugees the United States will accept.
All of this tension and the build up to where the United States and North Korea are today stems from the ending of the Six Party Talks on the North's nuclear programme. These must be urgently restarted. As the Iran Nuclear Agreement showed the world through tireless, patient, wise dialogue there is no problem that cannot be solved. As the German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on her recent visit to Moscow to meet with President Putin: «I am always of the view that even if there are serious differences of opinion in some areas, talks must continue». Indeed. This is why it was wrong of the Trump administration to declare that American «strategic patience» had run out with North Korea. It was also wrong of the United States to deploy the THAAD shield to South Korea which with it's powerful radar in all likelihood will be utilized to spy on China. This should be removed; the Six Party Talks should resume and the ridiculous Tweets and war of words emanating from President Trump and the Trump Pentagon must cease. Too much is at stake. Not only the peace and security and the Korean peninsula, and indeed the world, but also the balance of power in Asia.
As the former Head of MI6 Sir Richard Dearlove said to me at a meeting many years ago, it will be very interesting to see what happens with Japan in light of North Korea ie. the Japanese (one of the most brutal, aggressive and militaristic nations on the planet) are dying to be let off their American leash; re-militarize and start asserting themselves once more as an aggressive military power in Asia and beyond. Indeed, it has already started under their obnoxious and treacherous little Prime Minister Sinzo Abe, foolishly and shortsightedly with the full encouragement of the British and American Governments. Japan is preparing to send several warships to join the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group under its new security law passed in 2015 which has already started to row back from its post-WWII constitution that committed it to a military posture of purely self defence and forbade it from engaging in military adventures abroad.
As Dearlove intimated to me, the Japanese will take ful advantage of and exploit and manipulate the North Korean situation to return to their old militaristic, aggressive, brutal ways. A leopard never changes its spots. To mix up animal metaphors here I see the American and British Governments as snake charmers and Japan as the cobra. But both the American and British foreign and defence policy establishments should read up on the story of Ali Khan Samsudin, who was known as Malaysia's «snake king». He earned the title after living with 400 cobras, for 12 hours a day for 40 days, in a small room in the early 1990s. Yet, his luck and charms ran out on December 1, 2006, after being bitten by a king cobra. America and to a lesser extent Britain may have been able to charm the Japanese cobra for 70 odd years, but sooner or later, if they are not careful they too, just like Mr. Samsudin may well find themselves being fatally bitten by their pet snake. That is why, it will not be America or Japan that will rescue the world from a nuclear conflagration on the Korean peninsula. It will be the great, magnificent rising Super-Power of the 21st century: the People's Republic of China.