U.S. warned China: We won’t hold South Korea back if the North provokes again


posted at 8:16 pm on December 23, 2010 by Allahpundit

That’s according to this report that was being passed around on Twitter earlier. In the spirit of the season, and since his vacation’s off to a, er, bad start, I’ll raise a glass of eggnog to The One for this.

The delegation that visited Beijing included Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and Jeff Bader, senior director for Asian Affairs of the National Security Council. They were said to have delivered a “very tough message” to China. China is North Korea’s closest ally and has been under rising pressure from the U.S. to rein in the North after the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island on Nov. 22.

The diplomatic source said the delegation had told Chinese officials that if North Korea launches another attack, the U.S. would not stand in the way of South Korean military retaliation.

“Steinberg and his delegation also informed China that if it did not take up a responsible role in blocking North Korea’s provocations, then North Korea will inevitably be brought up during summit talks between President Obama and Hu Jintao next year,” the source added. “We believe that China delivered this message to North Korea because of the pressure, and urged them to tone down their response to the South Korean firing exercise on Yeonpyeong Island.”

Another South Korean diplomatic source said the fact that 19 U.S. soldiers were involved in the Yeonpyeong exercise was another reason North Korea did not attack.

Is this really that surprising? Obama’s image on the right is as a peacenik, but this was the “peace” option in this case. Conciliation had produced multiple North Korean nuclear tests (with another on the way), new uranium enrichment facilities, the sinking of the Cheonan, and the surprise attack on Yeonpyeong last month. It wasn’t a deterrent anymore, if ever it was; on the contrary, the policy was making things more dangerous insofar as Northern provocations had begun to tip the South’s population towards belligerence. Time for Plan B, then — namely, outright Southern defiance of Northern threats backed by U.S. saber-rattling. That’s a huge risk given how unpredictable the NorKs are, but at this point, with the South’s leadership under intense political pressure to stand up to Northern bullying, it would have been a huger risk for the White House to back down. To believe that Obama wouldn’t grasp that, you’d have to believe that he and his team are simply too stupid to understand the risk calculus here. And remember, he did famously say in his Nobel acceptance speech that he faces the world as it is. That may not be true when it comes to, ahem, “bending the cost curve” in ObamaCare, but in this case it looks like it was.

Exit quotation from Korea analyst Victor Cha: “The silver lining of last weekend is that the Chinese, for the first time, were worried that things were spinning out of control… It moved the Chinese more in the direction we wanted them to move.”

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