Everyone is focused on Syria. Literally, everyone. To be honest though, was anyone surprised? I wasn’t. Syria’s best bet would have been to lay low and stay off the radar. Instead, they became a very convenient way for President Trump to prove he was serious about the Middle East, show President Xi he was comfortable with military action, and distance himself from Russia.
If the video doesn’t make you say “‘Murica!” and love the Navy, you need to check your little red book at the door 🙂
But why is no one focused on this?
On top of that, President Trump says he is not afraid to act alone on North Korea.
None of this is accidental. If you care about human rights, North Korea routinely ranks lower than even Syria. It imprisons its own people on a massive scale, has massive issues providing enough food and medical care, yet finds the money and effort to build nuclear weapons.
China has chosen to do nothing about North Korea because the country is convenient for them. Not only does North Korea routinely rattle Japan, but they keep South Korea (with a very capable military) totally focused on the peninsula and not on China’s repeated expansion elsewhere. With the rest of the world willing to condemn North Korea but take no actions, China is sitting pretty, able to continue expanding in the East and South China Seas, as well as in their western territories, while cheaply distracting Japan, South Korea, and to a lesser extent, the US.
President Trump’s willingness to go it alone hits the soft underbelly of politics with China:
- It would unite Japan and South Korea in a conflict. China has always cited past Japanese aggression whenever it conducts diplomatic talks with South Korea. A conflict would put Japan and South Korea working together, something that would likely bolster the stalled improvement of relations between both countries.
- It would give China a massive immigration crisis. There are easily over 200,000 people imprisoned in camps, and most of the ~25 million people in North Korea live in dirt-poor conditions. China has always been a destination for illegal immigration, and if the North Korean state collapses, you would likely see a massive migration north.
- It would create a low cost competitor. When East and West Germany reunited, there was a massive economic boom in East Germany. Although it’s likely the South Korean economy would take a bit of a hit, China is much more vulnerable, having based a large amount of its economic growth on low cost manufacturing. An open North Korea would be a magnet for manufacturers and would likely tank the Chinese economy.
- It would damage China’s reputation. Asian culture in general is much more concerned about ‘saving face‘ than Western cultures. China is trying to prove it is an international power, but to have the US walk in and clean up problems in its backyard is damaging to that image.
- It puts the fight where China doesn’t want it. China stations its best military units near Taiwan and (increasingly) in the South China Sea, and believes that in a fight there it will win. Putting the fight squarely in their backyard, and with a combined South Korea and Japan, places them at a significant disadvantage.
We can joke all we want about North Korea being the short bus of nations, but a fight there would be nasty, and the humanitarian reconstruction afterwards would be massive. Syria’s end state won’t change the map much, but Korea’s end state could significantly change the balance of power in that region.
Trump’s pivot to the Pacific has already begun.