How China Sees the Next 'Korean War'

A soldier salutes during a military parade in Pyongyang April 15, 2017. Reuters/Damir Sagolj

Americans must get up close and personal with China’s perspective on the issue.

The unsettling feeling is now setting in that the U.S. homeland remains quite vulnerable, and that we have awkwardly returned to, more or less, a situation of mutually assured destruction—this time with a little, backward country that seems bent on making a mockery of America’s global stature. There will be an increasing tendency, of course, to crack the sanctions whip ever harder in search of a cost-free solution. But that is almost surely a delusion, unfortunately, and may well make the crisis worse, since backing an angry tiger into a corner is all but certain to cause unpredictable outcomes. For that reason, I have argued that what is needed now are not only strong deterrent measures, of course, but also an energized and creative “carrot diplomacy,” as I have spelled out elsewhere. This might also be supplemented by a tight China-Russia phalanx that can provide North Korea with the credible security assurances it logically seeks as part of a freeze/denuclearization grand bargain. Beijing may have taken a step in this direction recently.

Now that we are talking about the possibility of a North Korean nuclear warhead slipping through our defenses and suddenly turning an American city into glass, many of us strategists will much prefer to contemplate rather lighter subjects—like the siege of Raqqa, China’s reef bases in the South China Sea, or even “Fancy Bear” and “Guccifer.” So much for quaint summer reveries.

Lyle J. Goldstein is Professor of Strategy in the China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI) at the United States Naval War College in Newport RI. He does not tweet, since he is a scholar, but you can reach him at [email protected]. The opinions in his columns are entirely his own and do not reflect the official assessments of the U.S. Navy or any other agency of the U.S. Government.

Image: A soldier salutes during a military parade in Pyongyang April 15, 2017. Reuters/Damir Sagolj