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China Scholar Warns of Bloodbath If U.S. Launches Preemptive Atack on North Korea

Nov. 2, 2016 (EIRNS)—John Delury, a China expert at Seoul’s Yonsei University, writes on the website 38 North that if the United States launches a preemptive strike against North Korea’s nuclear facilities, China will honor it’s defense commitments to North Korea and go to war. On the other hand, Delury writes, China would be a cooperative and helpful partner with the United States. were they to open negotiations with the North. The article is covered in the Korean Herald and other media.

Delury assesses the disaster of Obama policy towards North Korea, and makes the assumption that Hillary Clinton will continue and escalate Obama’s confrontational policy. He says that the talk of a preemptive strike is gaining support in the Obama administration and will likely be continued by Clinton. Delury says that in addition to those advocating military action, there are those who want to escalate economic sanctions, which he calls "boa constrictors." Both policies will be opposed aggressively by China and risk confrontation between the U.S. and China.

"While U.S. officials are consulting intensely with their South Korean counterparts, not enough attention is being paid to Beijing’s perspective, even though China would figure heavily into any prospective US action toward the North. By examining Beijing’s role in each of the three main North Korea policy strategies under debate in the United States, the ’China factor’ emerges as a decisive one, in ways that policy makers need to weigh carefully,"

Delury writes.

"How might Beijing react to a U.S. pre-emptive or surgical strike on the North? The question is often evaded, perhaps because the answer makes a military solution considerably less attractive. North Korea is, after all, China’s only defense treaty ally in the world, and [China] is obligated to ’immediately render military and other assistance by all means at its disposal’ to defend Pyongyang if attacked. Their 1961 treaty is often overlooked or trivialized, occasionally by Chinese academics themselves. But the agreement remains in force, underscoring North Korea’s unique place in Chinese foreign relations. To mark the 55th anniversary of the treaty’s signing in July, Kim Jong Un sent Xi Jinping a friendly note praising the pact as a ’firm legal foundation’ for the bilateral relationship."

"To be sure, North Korea would be on its own if it were to attack U.S. allies or assets in the region, let alone US territory. But if the United States launches a pre-emptive strike not to prevent a specific, imminent missile attack, but rather to prevent North Korea from perfecting an intercontinental nuclear strike capability, it is unlikely to meet Beijing’s standard for jus ad bellum. On the contrary, a strike of this nature could likely drive Beijing to side with the North in accordance with their 1961 treaty. In the furious military retaliation that Pyongyang would muster after a U.S. strike, South Korea and the United States could not count on Beijing’s support and indeed may face Chinese intervention on the peninsula, as in October 1950. ’Surgery’ would rapidly descend into a bloodbath. ’Pre-emption’ would start a war."

On the other hand, Delury says, China would welcome and cooperate with U.S. negotiations with Pyongyang.

"Fighting for engagement and negotiation with North Korea in the U.S. foreign policy debate is an uphill battle. But proponents of engagement have one trump card: when Washington engages, the China factor becomes an asset in dealing with North Korea, rather than a liability or roadblock. Beijing, after all, is steadfast in its strategy of engaging Pyongyang, and it is perpetually looking for U.S. openness to negotiation. China’s security policy toward North Korea is unwavering: the goal is denuclearization, the preconditions are peace and stability, and the method is dialogue. If the next U.S. president adopts an engagement strategy, Xi Jinping’s government would likely step up its own work to achieve short-term breakthroughs and long-term solutions. Paradoxically, Washington’s best chance of getting China to apply constructive pressure on its errant neighbor is through a major U.S. initiative to negotiate with Kim Jong Un."

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