As it turns out, President Trump’s summit was mostly political theater. It ended with a communique steeped in anamorphic generalities — like, for example, the language on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Chinese and North Korean propagandists have used that language consistently as code for the withdrawal of U.S. tripwire forces from the South. As if to verify the U.S. government’s sudden acceptance of this code, President Trump made “off-hand” comments (if “off-hand” can ever appropriately describe presidential speech that reverses decades of U.S. policy, consistently maintained) announcing his decision to cease joint U.S. South Korean military exercises.
He suggested that he was doing so because they are “so provocative” (language China and North Korea frequently deploy when denouncing the exercises) and because he desired to see U.S. forces withdrawn (a perennial Chinese/North Korean demand), even though that’s not “part of the equation right now.”
The equation for the Trump-Kim Summit hardly represents an accurate description of the present state of affairs in the region, since it included no visible expression for China’s activities, which are a crucial variable on the North Korean side.
Chinese/North Korean propagandists have consistently maintained that the U.S. presence in the south is what nuclearizes the Korean peninsula, but how can the same not be said of China’s historic guarantee of North Korea’s security?
In fact, Kim has been acting as a stand-in for China. The game of nuclear threat and bluster he has been playing gives concrete point to the Chinese/North Korean understanding of nuclearization (i.e., it’s the effect of America’s military presence and guarantee). It does so even though China’s border on the peninsula, and its strategic nuclear arsenal, make North Korea’s possession of long-range nuclear weapons more than a bit superfluous.
Except for purposes of negotiating a superior outcome for China.
The presence of U.S. tripwire forces implies the escalation of U.S. involvement if North Korean forces once again invade South Korea. Without that tripwire, the existing structure of support for rapid expansion of U.S. forces would quickly degrade.
But, as history proves, China’s proximity assures its quick deployment of potentially overwhelming conventional forces. In that event, South Korea could quickly face defeat, despite the so far well-maintained preparedness of its Army and reserves.
Without U.S. “skin in the game” from the outset, can the U.S. be counted on to intervene against China’s forces, as it did post-WWII?
We would assuredly be unable to organize UN support for such action. Given the present parlous state of NATO and other post-WWII alliance structures, even America’s staunchest allies on the Korean front might make themselves unavailable.
Recently insulted Canada, for instance, contributed significantly to the UN forces that drove the “Chinese People’s Volunteer Army” out of South Korea. Though, these days, it’s easy to pretend that we get no advantage from trade concessions made to Europe, Canada, and other allies, wasn’t the understanding that they would stand firm in military alliance with us part of the deal?
It’s thought-provoking to ponder the symbolism of Trump’s confrontation with Europe and Canada, just before a summit in which he is negotiating with a Chinese puppet regime toward an outcome that may reduce our long-term ability to join immediately in South Korea’s response to any North Korean invasion of its territory.
Moreover, one key to U.S. success in the first Korean war was that we did not go it alone. Our action came under the aegis of responding to a threat to the fragile structure of international organization meant to avoid the outbreak of another global war. But if we alone stand with South Korea against a Kim’s “rogue” regime, we could end up letting China off the hook, even if and when our territory suffers significant damage from the Chinese puppet’s nuclear attacks.
Though materially weakened, we might defeat and perhaps even extinguish Kim’s failed state by conventional means. But if success requires even the use of tactical nuclear weapons, what sense does it make to assume China will not abide by its treaty obligations to North Korea and intervene? Even assuming that things never escalate to a strategic nuclear exchange, can we be sure of defeating the combined Chinese-North Korean forces?
Let’s say that we restore the status quo ante, as we did before. If we have suffered from North Korea’s first-strike use of its strategic nuclear missiles, we would still be recovering from the nuclear devastation of some of our territory. But if we refuse to escalate matters to a general exchange of strategic nuclear blows (e.g., with the Chinese puppet-master), the territory of our greatest competitors (not to say, enemies) would remain free of such devastation — free to exploit the void of power inevitable during our material and moral convalescence.
If we must endure a scenario that includes some enactment of North Korea’s nuclear-armed aggression, is it wise to let China off the hook for their role in making those provocations possible? Why are we allowing the perception that, this is simply a matter between the U.S. and North Korea, despite its implications of general nuclear war?
Kim’s behavior serves China’s strategic agenda in the region. His commitment to denuclearization parrots the mantras China has consistently used to pressure the U.S. to withdraw its military forces from the Peninsula.
If we adopt China’s language, aren’t we meekly accepting the palpable fiction that, once we withdraw, China will not assert its hegemony by means that eventually give them control of the relatively enormous productive capacity our money and security guarantees helped South Korea to develop?
For the U.S. withdrawal not only affects the prospect of U.S. participation in war against North Korean invasion. It affects the environment in which the people of South Korean have to deal with the likely escalation of unceasing Chinese/North Korean efforts to subvert their independence from within.
Ostensibly disregarding this possible course of future events, the Trump-Kim summit has been portrayed in preposterously narrow bilateral terms, ignoring the impact of U.S. actions on the strategic balance of force and will in the region as a whole.
Any withdrawal of U.S. tripwire forces from South Korea would signal a significant deflation of America’s resolve to defend our partners in the region. South Korea’s success is a jewel in the crown of our post-WWII international policy.
If we signal that we are no longer resolved to accept inevitable involvement in South Korea’s defense, who is likely to believe we will do more than expostulate ineffectually when and if the Chinese move in force to take possession of Taiwan?
And once America’s will to counterbalance China’s domineering ambitions no longer seems reliable, will Japan feel pressured to find its own way to contain them? Since the best defense is often a good offense, will the Japanese be tempted to remember the advantages they sought when pursuing the hegemonic agenda that eventually brought the U.S. into WWII?
Rather than declaring any eagerness whatsoever to withdraw our token of good faith and success from South Korea, we should make it clear that it is durable coinage, symbolic of a permanent U.S.-South Korean partnership. And we will not give it in trade. We should maintain this position because North Korea’s role as a Chinese puppet promises to be permanent.
If China ever lets the people of North Korea choose their own path, including an end to Communist-style totalitarian repression; and if it drops its aggressive posturing against the independence of Taiwan; then it might make sense for the U.S. to accept some formal agreement that registers a mutual relaxation of military vigilance in the Korean peninsula, and indeed the whole region.
But who believes China’s present regime intends for such a day to come? Any U.S. policy that focuses obsessively on North Korea’s nuclear blustering, without addressing China’s methodical manipulation of events in pursuit of regional hegemony, will surrender to the terroristic bully-boy tactics China deploys through its deft choreography of Kim Jong-Un.
In exchange for a cessation of his bluster, does it make sense for us to give up our non-aggressive but firmly long-standing resolve to contain and thwart China’s ruling ambition?
If we do give up that resolve, the Trump-Kim summit may indeed prove historic — for being the first outstanding signpost marking the first leg of contemporary resumption of China’s long march to global domination.
Alan Keyes is a political activist, writer and former diplomat.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.