It’s been almost two decades since the “Kitty Hawk incident” (1994) and the display of American naval power in the Yellow Sea. Since then, no US aircraft carrier has had a presence north of the East China Sea. But that will come to an end shortly as the U.S.S. George Washington is on its way there, not just to show military muscle to the North Korean regime but to “collaterally” test the patience of the Chinese.
Of course, both government and mainstream media in the US blame an out-of-control rogue nation, North Korea, and its young untested leader, Kim Jong Un, spewing threats from Pyongyang, as the cause of the new crisis… putting the sixty-year-old armistice in limbo and the entire area at the brink of war.
This armistice, by definition a temporary cease of hostilities, a truce until a peace accord is reached, has been a constant reminder of the high cost of peace. Keeping peace in the Korean peninsula, adding direct and indirect military costs, likely surpasses US$12 billion annually, over 2 billion of which is footed by US taxpayers to maintain almost 30,000 troops there. It also keeps North Korea impoverished, with 40 percent of its GDP sunk in its national defense.
But if the annual taunting and antagonizing efforts by the US-South Korean military drills aren’t enough – which this year included flying American bombers and fighter jets off the entire peninsula’s coast – bringing the U.S.S. Washington to the Yellow Sea is not only an act of aggression against North Korea but against China as well… or, at the very least, an affront to a nation that the US had hoped to convert into a reliable partner against North Korea’s weapons programs for both domestic and “export” purposes.
The Yellow Sea has been historically the gateway to China’s heartland (Beijing and Tianjin) and the military drill area chosen by the US and South Korea is a just about 300 miles from Beijing. As the US adds the 400-mile combat capability of the U.S.S. Washington, it’s easy to understand China’s security concerns. Would the US allow a similar military operation to take place off the Atlantic coast, 300 miles from Philadelphia, Boston and New York? Not likely! But patience is a great virtue mastered by both the Chinese masses and the ruling government in Beijing.
Those who think and/or proclaim that any verbal or physical aggression by North Korea could serve to strengthen the economic-military bond between China and the United States know little about China, or the wisdom the Chinese have added to their culture through millennia. China’s ascendancy to the apex of the power pyramid will be a two-sided coin, one economic, the other military. And following through one of Kong Qiu (Confucius) Analects, “To lead the people to war without having taught them is to throw them away,” Beijing knows that its time has not yet come… but that it’s close. It will soon be seven decades since the start of Mao’s consolidation of power in China. And, as Kong Qiu stated twenty-five centuries ago, “when a good man has taught the common people for seven years [decades would be applicable here], they should be ready to be employed in war.” So, for now, Beijing knows that patience must hold.
America, in its imperial role, has become accustomed to get its way, whether acting alone or accompanied by its entourage of friends and lackeys, in pronouncing what actions by other nations affect the interests of the United States (economic or military); always acting to protect those interests, right or wrong. And that has resulted in illicit embargoes and other actions causing penury, untold deaths, and impoverishment in many parts of the world (Palestine, Cuba, Iraq are but a few in the list).
In a world militarily out of balance only the top dog is allowed to do saber-rattling and not appear as a fool, never mind the reasons precipitating such dance. The US can do it with its hawkish choir led by soloists, Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rep. Peter King… but other level-headed world figures, Castro among them, have advised Kim ll Sung’s grandson to refrain from both actions and rhetoric which will increase the crescendo of this crisis and bring that region to a holocaustic explosion. And no one is more qualified than Fidel Castro to render advice on this issue after the half century of embargoes and acts of war inflicted on Cuba by the US.
It is unfortunate that Americans prefer to consider themselves peacekeepers rather than peacemakers. The peacekeeping role only lasts while you are on top… and that, sooner or later, comes to an end… then what?
Ben Tanosborn is a syndicated columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ben’s website: http://www.tanoborn.com/