Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
April 09, 2013

Misreading Xi On North Korea

Updated below

There are dozens of recent reports which assert that China's new president has somehow rebuffed North Korea's stand up against the U.S. driven campaign against it. A close reading of Xi's speech shows that these reports are wrong. Xi was clearly talking about  U.S. aggressiveness, not about North Korea's. The misreading of Xi's speech is characteristic for a U.S. centered media. They never seem able to understand that U.S. action in the world is perceived much different than what the selfish U.S. propaganda they distribute says.

The culprits:

Reuters: China rebukes North Korea, says no state should sow chaos

China's leaders issued thinly veiled rebukes to North Korea for raising regional tensions, with the president saying no country should throw the world into chaos and the foreign minister warning that Beijing would not allow mischief on its doorstep.
No country "should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gain", President Xi Jinping told a forum on the southern Chinese island of Hainan. He did not name North Korea but he appeared to refer to Pyongyang.
LA Times: China signals North Korea to stop throwing the 'world into chaos'
In a sign of China’s exasperation with its rogue ally, North Korea, newly installed Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday condemned nations that throw the “world into chaos.”

Without mentioning North Korea by name, Xi told delegates at an international forum in Boao, southern Hainan province: “No one should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gains.’’

WaPo: Chinese President Xi Jinping expresses concern over North Korea’s rhetoric
Responding to regional worries over North Korea’s bellicose threats, China on Sunday expressed concern and what appeared to be veiled criticism of its longtime ally.

“No one should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gains,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said at an economic forum in Hainan province. Avoiding mentioning North Korea by name, Xi said, “While pursuing its own interests, a country should accommodate the legitimate interests of others.”

NY Times: China Hints at Limits to North Korea Actions
In an indirect but clear reference to the North Korean crisis, China’s president,Xi Jinping, said Sunday that world peace should not be put at risk because of a single country.

“No one should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gain,” Mr. Xi said in a speech at an annual regional business forum in Boao, China. Mr. Xi did not single out any countries or disputes, but in separate remarks, China’s Foreign Ministry repeated its “grave concern” over the rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

All the above sources assume that Xi actually meant North Korea when he said "No one should be allowed ..." But what is the evidence for that?

The CSM gets nearer to the truth: China's Xi signals limited shift away from North Korea

In a speech Sunday, Chinese President Xi Jinping insisted that “no one should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gains.”

That was a slap at both North Korea and the United States, whose current military maneuvers in South Korea first prompted Pyongyang’s vitriolic response, say Chinese scholars. “He was trying to kill two birds with one stone, but his primary target was North Korea,” explains Professor Cheng.

A closer reading of the official translation of the speech shows that the part that includes the "no one..." phrase is clearly about global superpowers and global governance, not about a minor impoverished mountainous range on China's southern border:
The international community should advocate the vision of comprehensive security, common security and cooperative security so as to turn our global village into a big stage for common development, rather than an arena where gladiators fight each other. And no one should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gains. With growing interaction among countries, it is inevitable that they encounter frictions here and there. What is important is that they should resolve differences through dialogue, consultation and peaceful negotiations in the larger interest of the sound growth of their relations.
This paragraph is certainly not about North Korea. North Korea is not a "gladiator" in the global arena. The paragraph is about global governance and global actors who operate outside the governance framework that Xi envisions. That could only mean that Xi was pointing at the United States and its campaigns against Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and now Syria.

Confirming my take is an editorial in today's People's Daily, one of China's official newspapers. The rough automated translation:

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a keynote talk at the Boao Forum, said: "The international community should promote comprehensive security, common security, the concept of cooperative security and seek common development on the big stage, so that our global village, rather than mutually wrestling arena, more can not be selfish to confuse a region and the world. "During this speech, the last sentence of the subject discusses the most interesting, the Chinese and foreign media have speculated, who harbor" selfish "? Who in trying to mess up a region and the world "?

In fact, such speculation does not make much sense. The thrust of the original words to promote a new concept of international security, against the narrow, isolated, absolute security concept.
Review the security situation in the world in the new century, a lot of "hot spots" and "chaos point". Which, when the devaluation of Afghanistan and Iraq, the two places have been chaotic than ten years,
Western countries is considerable excitement in the beginning, to fan the flames, direct military intervention against Libya. Since then, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and other countries have emerged new social integration is characterized by "Islamic", which is something that Western countries did not expect. Syria's chaos has lasted for two years, the situation is still deadlocked.

So the People's Daily is clearly pointing out that it is not North Korea that saws chaos for "selfish gain", but the United States and its allies. It is those countries that Xi rebuked, not North Korea.

The Chinese, like me, will have asked who is actually provoking in the Korea stand-off. From their point of view it is clear that the U.S. created this crisis and is escalating it bit by bit. By now the White House has even acknowledged that these escalations are part of a planned campaign:
The U.S. is putting a pause to what several officials described as a step-by-step plan the Obama administration approved earlier this year, dubbed "the playbook," that laid out the sequence and publicity plans for U.S. shows of force during annual war games with South Korea. The playbook included well-publicized flights in recent weeks near North Korea by nuclear-capable B-52 and stealth B-2 bombers, as well as advanced F-22 warplanes.
The U.S. has planned the current crisis and even written a "playbook" for its escalation. Nuclear capable B-52 and B-2 are a clear threat to North Korea. It is no wonder that it responds to such threats by upping its own propaganda.

China is concerned about the Korea crisis. But if that concern influenced that paragraph in Xi's speech at all it did so in a rebuke to the United States not to North Korea. China Will Not Help To "Punish" North Korea.

That mainstream U.S. media have read the Xi speech differently just shows their sorry intellectual state and their inability to see the world, not through their own propaganda glasses, but through the eyes of the "other".

UPDATE: Xinhua now carries an official but shortened translation of the above mentioned Chinese piece: Xi's security outlook. The core that points to the U.S.:

This new concept of shared security is in stark contrast to the parochial approach, which tends to view security based on one's own interests and needs. Driven by such an undesirable approach, a country will always calculate its own gains first whenever there is a regional or global security crisis.

From the Syria crisis to maritime territorial disputes in the East and South China seas, in the final analysis many of the world's security woes today can, one way or another, be traced back to the pursuit of selfish gains in disregard of regional and global security needs.

Posted by b on April 9, 2013 at 17:14 UTC | Permalink


The U.S. is putting a pause to what several officials described as a step-by-step plan the Obama administration approved earlier this year, dubbed "the playbook," that laid out the sequence and publicity plans for U.S. shows of force during annual war games with South Korea.

B - given that this 'playbook' has been created well in advance, and that we are in the middle of an 'Asian Pivot' right now, with the US essentially trying to box in China, is this show of force really intended for our friends in Beijing as opposed to Pyongyang? It seems that this is the opportunity that the US had to escalate its regional presence while not directly poking China in the eye, but of couse, with the result that the US wants - a much greater power projection lurking in the region.

Posted by: Base | Apr 9 2013 18:15 utc | 1

@Base - is this show of force really intended for our friends in Beijing as opposed to Pyongyang?


Posted by: b | Apr 9 2013 18:37 utc | 2

The thing is, the US is looking for a way out without losing face. They bluffed and NK called their bluff - even to the point of threatening to nuke US itself.

Reading different msm, one can tell the US is hoping for China to bail them out of this mess by reining in NK. But why should the Chinese help? In fact, I'd argue that China is happy to see the US further engage itself in another disastrous war that will eventually kick them out of the region.

I just feel sorry for the South Koreans, though. Their city's just one bullet or one stupid rhetoric away from annihilation from the many thousands of NK artillery missiles pointed at them. The US is like the mobster that goes around bulling everyone to pay "protection money"..Until the next bully comes along,then he realize he can't protect everyone.

Militarily speaking, the Korean peninsular will be the dumbest place to launch a war. NK will have direct supply lines to China and Russia..And even the thought of using nukes in that area will be out question as China/Russian will very likely respond.

So, unless the US is prepared to directly/indirectly fight both Russian and China at the same time, they should find a way out this mess ASAP.

Posted by: Zico | Apr 9 2013 18:53 utc | 3

Norman Solomon wrote the book on MSM propaganda: "War Made Easy -- How presidents and pundits keep spinning us to death." I haven't read it for awhile so I'm leafing through it, looking for a clue as to how this media outlets are able to parrot each other so quickly and completely on the desired US position.

In this case, how did the major media all get the word that they should play up a concocted PRC-DPRK split, without any basis whatsoever? There must be something that comes from State to the principal editors -- major media is very concentrated now, so it's not many -- that tells them what to print and/or say? It's similar with Iran, China and Syria, other members of the Axis of Evil (extended).

Gotta admit -- it's impressive. Making little DPRK look like it's brutalizing the mighty USA is not an easy trick.

Speaking of, Admiral Locklear (Commander, US Pacific Command) is testifying today in Congress, advocating -- guess what -- war. Why advocate war on a tiny impoverished country ten thousand miles from the USA? headline: "Admiral: North Korea is direct threat to U.S. -- WASHINGTON — The top U.S. military commander in the Pacific said Tuesday that North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles represents a clear and direct threat to the United States and its allies in the region."

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 9 2013 19:24 utc | 4

Thanks, b

this intelligent and deeper looking way for which you just delivered a very nice example is my reason to be here and enjoying your thoughts.

Some more food for your line:

Yesterday or so the deputy editor of some (less important, it seems) communist party gazette got himelf "frozen" (suspended until further notice) for writing some opinion piece along the line "we (China) should let go/abandon North Korea".
Wait, it gets even better. It wasn't some subalternate party guy to put that editor into the freezer. It was, so it is hinted, someone high up in the government who called from Peking.

I wrote it before: This is a trap for the usa. And isn't it funny how they feed the usa with all her self-loving stupid preoccupations? Like "Russia and China not really liking each other" - et voilà: China sticks to NK and Russia (plays to) "gravely warns". Yesss, that's the kind of food, the usa eats without looking twice ...

Or those funny stories about China bringing their troops closer to NK. Yeah right, surely China plans to hit NK militarily if NK doesn't behave nicely ... Bullsh*t! This is the american way of "thinking".
Actually, I think, China simply does two things: It prepares a "route" for replenishments into NK and it brings its missile batteries closer towards japan.

The usa, besides having a big mouth, factually was too weak to clearly win against a brutally weakened Iraq and a almost medieval Afghanistan with rebels using 30 year old weapons.
Against China and Russia the usa is doomed. It's about time.

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | Apr 9 2013 20:35 utc | 5

"Why advocate war on a tiny impoverished country ten thousand miles from the USA?"

Tradition, if nothing else! And don't worry, six weeks to six months, certainly not six years.

Posted by: Mooser | Apr 9 2013 22:44 utc | 6

This is the pivot to Asia? Americans are such blunderers. The more they believe their own propaganda, the faster their demise as an empire.

Posted by: Inanna | Apr 10 2013 0:06 utc | 7

In Tokyo! There is a few needs (and wants) in Tokyo right now. One is to justify an investment in PAC-3; second one, to assert itself in the eyes of electoral body; and third one, the posturing its forces - showing toughness and muscle toward China and N. Korea with the US "lead behind".

As usual, lessons form history haven't been learned.

And off topic: China just surpassed the US in semiconductor manufacturing.

Another throne is taken by China. One by one all benchmarks will be in possession of PR of China, actually only GDP left. The zenith is behind "advanced" economies. Can't wait to see what gonna happen with EU, how is it going to end up that misery of union?

One thing that I questioning is rhetoric or PR of N. Korea leadership.

Posted by: neretva'43 | Apr 10 2013 0:21 utc | 8

Welsh boy sings Chinese folk songs and is adored by fans in China and does well in the China style American Idol/ China got talent. Since he is singing professionally in China for $5000 a night. 'Only in USA' used to be a term, well; 'Only in China' one can also say that now...

V's America got Fraud with contestant crying after he lied about being in War's

Times are changing...

Posted by: Kev | Apr 10 2013 4:18 utc | 9

I'm sorry, I find a lot of the commentary about NoKo here to be equal but opposite crap that I read in the MSM. Out of one side of our mouths we plead not to be USA-centric, and on the other side we claim that this is all nothing more than a trap for the USA. Hogwash. There is none of this current crisis that wasn't entirely predictable a year or more ago, and it would have been if there were no such country as the USA.

I mentioned after the shelling of Yeonpyeong in late 2010 that this was all part of the legitimizing process during a leadership transition that we have come to expect, and that NoKo would up the ante... especially in light of their poster boy's youth and the disgruntlement of many seasoned NoKo generals who are faced with living in the perpetual shadow of the Baekdu Kim clan. Well, you can rest easy on the score of Jong-un's inexperience; he is only nominally in charge of the country and all of this grand drama originates and is orchestrated by Kim Kyong-hui. (Maybe there is some cold comfort to be had in the knowledge that regional destabilization is not being headed by a young, green, overpriveleged 30-year old, but instead by a bitter and overprivileged, psychopathic 66-year old.)

Where the USA has failed (and I disagree that it has, given the no-win situation it is being handed here) is in not realizing that the current sabre-rattling is substantially different than previous sabre-rattling... and, frankly, after living under perennial tantrum-throwing by these guys for the past ten years, I understand that oversight. The USA presumed that the present tantrum was simply about the most recent round of sanctions placed on NoKo (and it is partially... more hypocrisy from Pyeongyang: They talk about their racial and cultural superiority and how Juche-- that is to say, self reliance-- is everything to them, but when you threaten to cut off their foreign handouts, their tantrums fill the headlines for the next several months.) It didn't take into account the transition process and how Jong-un still needs to pad his resume with some international dickery at home to be apotheosized proper. The sanctions coming at the time they did was just good luck for the Baekdu Kims and bad luck for everyone else... and the USA should have factored that into their calculations.

Now, does the USA bully smaller nations? Routinely. Does that mean that's what's going on here and that this is all some larger, arcane strategem on the part of various and sundry superpowers while North Korea is simply an idyllic, peace-loving bystander? Most of you apparently think so. Forgive me for not seeing any white hats in this teeming ocean of spoiled, homocidal, comparatively rich people here.

Posted by: Monolycus | Apr 10 2013 4:49 utc | 10

Another finely crafted Q.E.D analysis, b.
The most flattering thing one could say about the NK drivel concocted (yet again) by the Western Media's whipped and obedient curs and reptiles, is that they've taken wishful thinking to a whole new level.
What timid and worthless scum they've become...or were they always like that (Investigative Journalism at its most incurious)?

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Apr 10 2013 5:53 utc | 11

Xi's thinly-veiled observations about the US of A suggest that the Chinese and Russian senses of humour equally amusing and ironic. Most of what passes for humour in the US is really just a variation on Schadenfreude (a dis-ease they share with their friends, the "Israelis"). The Yankees take themselves far too seriously - which possibly helps to explain why many of them wouldn't recognise a good joke if it tripped over them - unless it broke its leg, or died.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Apr 10 2013 6:56 utc | 12

base 1, b2

spot on.

one might disagree about nk's *insanity*
but the fact remains fukus has been using the pretext of nk *menace* to completely encircle china with bmd
mission accomplished ?
perhaps there's method in the *madness*

Posted by: denk | Apr 10 2013 7:06 utc | 13

@Monolycus - you seem to ignore the "playbook" the Wall Street Journal wrote about. It seems clear to me that the U.S. is escalating this step by step. Instead it could have just ignored the North or, for much less money than B-2 flights cost, deliver some grains and fertilizer.

The aggressive approach the U.S. is running only helps those who hold power in North Korea. But it is of course a nice justification for more Anti Ballistic Missiles around China and the "pivot" in general.

Posted by: b | Apr 10 2013 9:04 utc | 14

A spot-on illustration of the situation.

Posted by: b | Apr 10 2013 9:07 utc | 15

You're right, I do tend to ignore a lot of what I read in the MSM (although, to my knowledge, Judith Miller has never contributed to the Wall Street Journal, so it's still on the upper level of credible sources in my book.) I just find it hard to believe that US foreign policy regarding missions-in-progress have been so declassified as all that... I mean, we know that NoKo's allies, at least, are pretty avid readers,and if there's one thing that the USA pretends to care about, it's national security.

I stayed away from commenting here on this issue because I already know how it's going to play (viz.: "Fill-In-The-Blank has a problem with the USA? Well, they must be pretty all right guys, then!")Although, for the record, I agreed almost entirely with your 08 March analysis ("Another Korea War?") I knew that the echo chamber would revert quickly to the default position and I had little more to add to what you said, anyway.

What I DO think everyone is conspicuously overlooking in order to prop up their "USA= evil incarnate; DPRK= poor, innocent victim" paradigm is that NoKo aren't just standing around twiddling their thumbs and being picked on here. They are deliberately ratcheting the situation so that Kyong-hui can keep it in the family and squash those pesky pseudo-revolutionaries at home who might want the tiniest slice of that impoverished country's pie themselves (and if regional destabilization and mass deaths have to happen in order to achieve that, well... you can't make an omelet without breaking a couple eggs, as they say.) USA and South Korea are a secondary audience for the latest rhetoric coming out of there.

Don't get me wrong, I'm nobody's interventionist. Any autonomous country that wants to starve, gas, torture, execute, intimidate, or enslave it's own people is just fine and dandy with me (and if they hate the USA on top of that, well, how could they possibly be bad?) But when an autonomous nation wants to spill their garbage out into the rest of the world... well, then it's helpful to be a genuine superpower and not to just imagine you are one because you happen to ride the coattails of one, because the neighbours might decide to complain about it.

Posted by: Monolycus | Apr 10 2013 14:24 utc | 16

This situation ties into the "pivot" to Asia that features current US foreign policy. The idea is to take Americans' minds off of the terrible failures of the US military adventures in Southwest Asia and redirect attention to East Asia.

SecState Clinton: "The future of politics will be decided in Asia, not Afghanistan or Iraq, and the United States will be right at the center of the action."

This "pivot" was widely assumed to be to counter a growing threat from China. But wait a minute, China helps bankroll the US and has provided a growth location for so many US corporations. with GM now selling more cars in China than in America. So the US will use diplomacy, not force, with China.
SecDef Panetta: "We are obviously paying close attention to the situation in Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. The U.S. position is clear and consistent: we call for restraint and for diplomatic resolution; we oppose provocation; we oppose coercion; and we oppose the use of force."

So if the military "pivot" was not against China, then -- the "pivot" was directed against -- North Korea! That's it -- weak, impoverished North Korea threatens the U.S.!
SecDef Panetta: "We have got to focus our force in those areas that we -- in which we face the biggest threats. And so that's why we're rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific, because we confront real threats here, from North Korea."

No "diplomatic resolution" in Korea. There will be plans for war games, with big bombers and fighters showing military strength. But North Korea has a strong protector, China. What about that? That problem can be handled by "strategic messaging" -- making it seem like China sides with the U.S. against North Korea! What a plan! Will it work? Of course, we'll get the MSM on board and everyone will believe it.
LA Times: China signals North Korea to stop throwing the 'world into chaos'
WaPo: Chinese President Xi Jinping expresses concern over North Korea’s rhetoric
NY Times: China Hints at Limits to North Korea Actions

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 10 2013 15:26 utc | 17

@mono "...he is only nominally in charge of the country and all of this grand drama originates and is orchestrated by Kim Kyong-hui..."

How do you know this?

Posted by: ruralito | Apr 10 2013 15:30 utc | 18

Fair enough, ruralito. I don't "know" any more than anyone else outside of that circle does. The most I can do is surmise and strongly suspect based upon what I do know of Korean history and psychology.

Posted by: Monolycus | Apr 10 2013 15:40 utc | 19

Hey mono, read the latest at Counterpunch on Curtis Lemay and Korea. Flip it and imagine 20% of Merkins blown away. Now tell me you wouldn't hear a tantrum or two from that quarter.

Posted by: ruralito | Apr 10 2013 15:44 utc | 20

mono, suggest you use your subjunctive voice. It says so much more.

Posted by: ruralito | Apr 10 2013 15:54 utc | 21

The Counterpunch piece: What’s Annoying the North Koreans? lots of things ...

I agree with Monolycus that it is not Kim Yong Un calling the shots but a team of the elders around him. Anything else would not fit to the Korean culture. The young guy is only put there as the propaganda image. It will take years before he will be allowed to rule on his own.

Posted by: b | Apr 10 2013 16:17 utc | 22

" is not Kim Yong Un calling the shots but a team of the elders around him." So, similar to the Home of the Depraved.

Posted by: ruralito | Apr 10 2013 16:47 utc | 23

Peter Lee at ATOL (thanks Peter for mentioning my piece though the name is Bernhard (etymological from Bär and hard, in English bear (the animal) and hardily)

China: Pivot 'partner' or pinata?

The best geopolitical play by the United States has nothing to do with the atmospherics of the pivot and, indeed, is well known to everybody in the foreign policy establishment: rapprochement a la Myanmar with North Korea while somehow finessing the DPRK's determination to retain its nuclear weapon and missile assets.

North Korea gets a big new friend, China keeps its useful regional buffer minus the nuclear provocation and starvation headaches, and Japan and South Korea can move on to other regional economic and security preoccupations. That's pretty close to a universal win-win, though the miserable North Korean people might not share the regional powers' enthusiasm for a newly revitalized DPRK regime.

The PRC leadership is probably slightly bemused that the United States, in order to advance its security-heavy pivot concept, is pushing the DPRK away instead and forcing it back into the arms of China - a place where North Korea really doesn't want to be.

At the same time, the US - rather shortsightedly, in my opinion - exploits Pyongyang's antics to move more military assets into the region to bolster the pivot narrative of US indispensability to regional security, thereby further irritating China.

A clever plan - not - in my humble opinion.

I agree that the U.S. militaristic approach is stupid and will likely fail. It could even fail badly and the U.S. would have another war on its hand. It already failed once in a land war in Korea. Why now risk a second fail?

Posted by: b | Apr 10 2013 17:15 utc | 24

The fact that the young Kim is quite certainly not really ruling NK alone ist a detail, an important one in some respects, no doubt but a detail. Fact is that NK actes as it acts - whoever in detail calls the shots.

Furthermore it can be taken as fact that NKs freedom of action is severely limited. Whoever is in charge there in the end can't do much without Chinas, and to a degree, Russias consent.

It seems appropriate and useful to look at the context (incl. geographically).

Japan, to hammer it down to 2 decisive points is a) very much detested in the whole region and b) brutally inflating its yen, such bringing harm to both China and S. Korea

S. Koreas still and since long most intense desire is to reunite with NK. Unlike for tens of years a united Korea, albeit without us bases, would not any more get an unconditional "No" as response from China. Having immensely gained in economic weight and having basically good relations with China, a united Korea could be on par with it's real tradional enemy: Japan.
(Which are two reasons why the usa will fight toes and nails against a really free and independent - or worse (in usas eyes) reunited - Korea.

China (and Russia) have understood perfectly well that usa, while getting weaker and weaker, will try to keep reigning the world with brutal power, deception and terror, no matter what. As long as the usa isn't terminated the hard way there simply will not be peace.

Now, if China (and Russia) *will* have to fight a war sooner or later they can as well go for it now - and better in a theater set up by themselves than in one defined by and to the liking of the usa. The "pivot" idiocy of the usa quite probably was the trigger. Because the implementation, even now in an early stage, quite simply comes down to strengthening potential adversaries, bringing weapons into the region, building up alliances against China, etc. So, the earlier China cuts that off the better; fighting the final war against the usa terr regime now is way better than letting the dirty work and preparations of the usa go on.

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | Apr 10 2013 21:18 utc | 25

23) the sequester?

Posted by: somebody | Apr 10 2013 21:32 utc | 26

In the end, of course, it's about MONEY. The US needs an "Asia pivot" to keep justifying those hundreds of billions to the military-industrial complex. The upcoming Iran war is, as Chico Marx used to say, "att'sa all right for me, but I got a brother". In the long run, the only way to justify the Pentagon budget is a major military threat, not a series of puny Third World countries - despite the fact that they are nice for long running, never won "wars" that generate billions in profits every year for a decade. Russia still has too many nukes and a Navy - and intends on increasing that Navy. China is a more moderate target - and more importantly the only real economic competitor to the US. So China HAS to be depicted as the "rising threat" to justify all that massively expensive military hardware.

North Korea is just a red herring, as Iran's nuclear energy program is just a red herring. Just like a diplomatic solution to the Iran crisis could be constructed almost overnight - as Brazil and Turkey did in 2010 - the NK situation could be resolved with another Agreed Framework. The fact that it isn't is not just because the Beltway is full of morons - although that doesn't help. It is not being resolved because there is no interest in resolving it. Too many careers and pocketbooks depend on it not being resolved.

This is why countries lurch into wars. The people who control the purse strings and the people who do the bidding of those controlling the purse strings are either uninterested in avoiding - because it will cost them nothing - or too incompetent to avoid making the mistakes that result in war being inevitable.

In the case of Iran, we're looking at another protracted ten-year war which will be four times larger and more costly than Iraq and Afghanistan combined, resulting in the deaths of a million or more Iranians, the displacement of five million or more, the destruction of Iran's infrastructure and much of Persian culture, and the deaths of 50,000 US troops, and the evaporation of the US economy.

In the case of North Korea, we're looking at a multi-year hot war that will cost a million lives (minimum) in North and South Korea and an estimated 250,000 US casualties - 50,000 in the first ninety days - destroying one of America's largest trading partners with a significant impact on the US economy, and threatening a nuclear war between the US and China.

And there is literally no one who can stop either of these events from occurring.

All of which is a precise case of "chickens coming home to roost". A national electorate of dim-witted morons who have voted an ever-more-corrupt series of politicians into office based on stupidity and ignorance will reap what they have sewed.

Posted by: Richard Steven Hack | Apr 10 2013 22:47 utc | 27

typical msm narrative, nk is mad, china is using its mad lapdog nk to menance sk, us, the whole god damned *free world*.
at the very least, it isnt doing its part to reign in nk !
in alternate media, *progressives* savaged china for *betraying nk to appease the evil empire* ! [1]

china is damned either way.
while the shit stirrer itself is sitting pretty chuckling to itself
those cunning bastards
fukus= fuck uk + us


Posted by: denk | Apr 11 2013 5:35 utc | 28

*typical msm narrative*
i mean opinions n write ups i gather from the msm

Posted by: denk | Apr 11 2013 5:37 utc | 29

I guess I'm a fatalist because I think is the u.s.a. is fucked. Sorry for the strong language, but what other word describes the american situation better?

We're facing war on all fronts. At home we're fighting to keep our basic rights intact and trying to keep from sinking further into a debt-fueled abyss (good luck)... and I guess we're trying pull ourselves out of the financial hole by expanding our militarily into places we're not wanted (or needed for that matter). Not to mention the environmental problems our corporations keep creating. Reading history a person knows that all empires eventually end – badly I should add. Of course who reads history these days?

In ten years I bet there will be some fresh war crimes trials and it will be americans taking the stand. In the court of world opinion this has already happened and our symbol, Ol' Glory, is going the way of the swastika. The trials will probably be hard to understand for folks like me who aren't fluent in Chinese. Hopefully our new masters will have decent translations available so we will know just how awful we were.

Only fools think empires last forever.

The good news is that americans will start losing weight and getting exercise. It will be in internment camps, but heck, at least we'll be skinny...


Posted by: DaveS | Apr 11 2013 13:14 utc | 30

@Monolycus @16 (sorry that comment was earlier spamtrapped)

I do not see North Korea as something good versus the US bad.

But what I see is an escalation spiral that the U.S. is willingly and in a very planned way turning. It did not and does not have to do so. There are many ways to turn down the heat but Obama does not want to do that. We may therefore end up with many dead people. I find this stupid and dangerous.

North Korea is how it is. There s little anyone can do about that outside of an all out war. The world will have to live with that. But does the world also have to live a United States that is, just as much as North Korea, escalating an unneeded crisis?

Posted by: b | Apr 11 2013 13:35 utc | 31

For those who believe the MSM meme "North Korea is starving"

North Korea Boosts Food Output Thanks to New Farm Deal: Report

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea, which has suffered chronic food shortages for decades, has had a surge in agricultural production due to a new pay-based incentive system for farmers last year, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper reported on Thursday, citing farm managers.

The move to liberalize agriculture was to be a key policy initiated by the North's new leader Kim Jong-un, who took over from his father who died in late 2011, who himself experimented with economic reforms that faltered.

Although there was evidence of some liberalization in agriculture, a widely expected policy announcement last year was never made.

The agriculture report could not be independently verified but U.N. surveys for the same period have also indicated a rise in output, although people still have to cope with food shortages on a daily basis, according to the United Nations.

A rise in farm incomes has allowed many to buy appliances and mobile phones and cemented patriotism, said the report by Choson Sinbo, official publication of the Chongryon, or the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan.

Posted by: b | Apr 11 2013 13:37 utc | 32

@Monolycus - your post contained a link to a story in Business Insider.

That story is based on one "defector" and includes this graph:

A halting interview with him, in the back of a taxi parked in the sparse countryside outside Dandong, was arranged through an agent who is helping to smuggle him to the South, and who charged £100 to speak to the former officer.

That is laughable. The guy is as much a North Korean defector as those "Somali pirates" interviewed for money in Kenia are actually Somalis or pirates.

Posted by: b | Apr 11 2013 13:45 utc | 33

A remarkably grown-up editorial in the People's Daily: Words to four nations over Korean Peninsula tensions

Although the situation on the peninsula has not come to the point when conflicts can be triggered at any moment, it has brought harm to regional peace and stability.

Not allowing troublemaking at the doorsteps of China means to stop the vicious circle of tension on the peninsula, to prevent any party from stirring up trouble, to oppose creating tension on purpose, and to say no to render the use of force to resolve the problem. Words and deeds that intensify the tensions on the Korean Peninsula should be condemned and opposed.

Not allowing troublemaking at the doorsteps of China is not China's "Monroe Doctrine". China does not seek spheres of influence. China intends to maintain regional peace and stability on the Peninsula, and determine its own position and actions in accordance with the Peninsula situation on its own merits. At present, it is not without hope to maintain peace and stability on the peninsula.

The pressing matter of the moment is that all parties should calm down and restrain, move to ease the tension as soon as possible to create the conditions for the situation to change.

Posted by: b | Apr 11 2013 15:33 utc | 34


Not allowing troublemaking at the doorsteps of China is not China's "Monroe Doctrine".
One wonders just how un-subtle the Chinese will have to become before the dumb-ass Yankees get the message?

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Apr 11 2013 17:36 utc | 35

See Video: ‪How They Sell War on North Korea‬ See what the news media edits out of North Korea's statements, hiding who the aggressor is. The U.S. is also using economic sabotage to put North Korea "UNDER PERIL"

Posted by: Tom Murphy | Apr 12 2013 1:52 utc | 36

Despite the vaunted "pivot" the US currently has no active aircraft carriers in the western Pacific. Of ten, not one.

But that may change. The USS Stennis Carrier Strike Group (CSG), which had been operating in the Arabian Sea for its deployment period passed through the Strait of Malacca on march 31, is now in the South China Sea and appears headed toward the Korean peninsula.

The USS Peleliu (a sort of mini-carrier) Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) embarked had been operating in coordination with the Stennis group and is now south of Vietnam and appears to be also headed for Korea.

The USS Washington, which is the only forward deployed carrier, and is located in Yokosuka, Japan, remains there “undergoing a six months for maintenance. Carriers require a lot of maintenance. What do you expect for eleven billion dollars? The new ones will cost $14 billion to build plus $7 million a day to operate.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 12 2013 2:29 utc | 37

There has been some really over the top propaganda on this. I think the "China is on our side" is partially for home consumption (I'd love to see a poll on how trustworthy Americans feel China is...probably higher than, say, Congress) so that we can seem right on this most obviously aggressive act we are carrying out (in the same way that having a "Coalition of the Willing" made us seem not so far out of bounds on Iraq).

Here is one of my favorites:

"Who are the Foreigners taking North Korea's side?!"

Posted by: guest | Apr 12 2013 4:01 utc | 38

The PRC "selfishness" made clear from their exploitation of North Korea for gains in natural resources , regional hegemony , and exclusive market access and the crushing of South Korea , the one state that wont bow to selfish Chinese economic and military pressures - if not for China's selfish beefing up of that dire dictatorship in NK likely would have united with South Korea decades ago (once the USSR collapsed) to the great joy of the majority its largely starving , repressed , imprisoned people - the same for Zimbabwe's dictator and many other African and South Asian Chinese puppet strong men (of Laos, Cambodia, etc.) - while China pollutes the atmosphere and biosphere generally into carbon / toxic oblivion for the selfish sake of short term gain (while it wastes its own agricultural lands and so must ravage the arable lands of other continents particularly in poor African countries casting farmers off their lands) - its the fashion now to trash the US (as it has nearly always been for those who cannot build a better or more just society and detest the comparison with her) - the US with a third the population of China cannot hope to compete in terms of entire output with China but what does it matter or even mean? China the nation of one viable ethnic group , Han, that trashes and exploits all its minority cultures (can you imagine a Tibetan or even half Tibetan but TIbetan appearing President of China ? never !) - let China pollute itself into oblivion and find absolutely no friends in its region of influence or the world but dictatorships and the US will still rule supreme through the force of her liberties. North Korea, China's most vehement dictator puppet state, would vastly prefer to become a State of the US and fall under its benign aegis but it knows that China would decimate it instantly should it show the slightest reasonableness towards the US and her allies. When I see North Korea speak and act I know its only China as the invisible selfish hand - seeking desperately to lure the US into misdirected attention while she works her selfish domination of the entire Pacific region to exploit the free peoples thereof and their resources.

Posted by: Yankee | Apr 12 2013 4:54 utc | 39

"US will still rule supreme through the force of her liberties"

The US may well continue to rule supreme through force, but I doubt it's dwindling, emaciated liberties will have anything at all to do with it all.

Posted by: guest | Apr 12 2013 5:22 utc | 40

I'm guessing S. Koreans know their interests are with a unified, independent Korea, and not with an aging, radioactive Japan and an aggressive, two-faced USA.

Posted by: guest | Apr 12 2013 5:56 utc | 41

yankee (40)

Just a short wake-up call:

Actually, China *pays* for the resources they "exploit"; they also build valuable infrastucture.

The usa, however, exploits through wars. "Rule supreme" ... "force of liberty" ...

As you call yourself "yankee" this is not to be held against you but just for the sake of correctness: The usa ruleD (past tense) through (taken the) liberty of force whenever it suited them.

Not meaning to disturb you. Just go ahead and "rule supreme". But don't dare to use the "force of liberty" of a discussion with your government ... or else ...

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | Apr 12 2013 12:36 utc | 42

@yankee, "You've been reading too many comic books." Jim Stark, Rebel Without a Cause

Posted by: ruralito | Apr 12 2013 13:33 utc | 43

There's been some discussion here recently about strategic messaging, or strategic communications. Controlling the narrative for political gain is a field of its own. DPRK is currently providing an example of this, according to koreajoongangdaily. excerpts:

We are witnessing a groundbreaking example of psychological warfare using the media - both traditional and bleeding edge - to achieve economic and political gains. North Korea has initiated major psychological warfare to damage South Korea’s economy by discouraging foreign direct investment and tourism while constricting movement of foreign economic players. . .

Park’s “mishandling” of foreign relations may eventually invite blame for damaging a sensitive and vulnerable part of her political base. This too may be one of the North’s psychological warfare objectives.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 12 2013 14:12 utc | 44

@44, interesting take. Reminiscent of US make-em-cry-uncle diplomacy, but from the underdog's perspective.

Posted by: ruralito | Apr 12 2013 15:10 utc | 45

...and Brer Rabbit said to Brer Fox: "Ha! Ye durn fool! I was born and raised in the briar patch!"

Posted by: ruralito | Apr 12 2013 15:19 utc | 46

Topping the potential battle in Korea against the scary NorKors, the fight that really counts is between the services over diminishing military budget dollars in the Pentagon. And guess what, thanks to scary NorKors, the Navy has so far come up the winner.

DOD Buzz, Apr 11, 2013

Navy hauls in budget’s largest share among services

The U.S. Navy receive the largest chunk of funding among the three services out of the $527 billion within the president’s 2014 baseline budget request unveiled on Wednesday.

The $155 billion the Pentagon requested for the Navy outpaces the $144 billion requested for the Air Force and the $129 billion requested for the Army.

Many predicted the Navy might receive the largest portion of the baseline budget as the sea service pivots its forces to the Pacific and grows to a 300-ship Navy.

Of course the chief alarmist on scary NorKors, the flip-flopper SecState Kerry, is ex-Navy so that does no harm.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 12 2013 15:22 utc | 47

kid 39

u r an embarrassment to the yanks
*kept in the dark n fed bushit all day*

Posted by: denk | Apr 12 2013 16:04 utc | 48

@ 47. That figures.
"Navies" are so-o 19th (and early 20th) Century.

In the Missile Age, which began circa 1980, ships are little more than slow-moving hard-to-miss bullseyes. USA's irrational obsession with military hardware (and the softest of defenseless targets on which to wage mock war) has outlived its tactical and strategic usefulness to everyone except the share-holders of the M-I Complex aka the 1%.

The problem with the US's 40 or so navies (Expeditionary, Carrier, Battle and Missile Groups) is that they're predicated on the base & bunker (close support interdependence) mentality which plagues its ground forces. It's a variation on the theme of 'circling the wagons' which worked so well with the bow & arrow-wielding Red Indians in the good old days of massacres and genocide.

The security of these naval Groups obliges them to cluster when threatened, making each Group vulnerable to annihilation by Nukes - which, imo, is what will happen within the first 24 hrs of an overt military threat by the US on China or Russia.
The USA will NEVER attack anything that will make either entity feel threatened - including, but not limited to, Iran.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Apr 12 2013 17:07 utc | 49

Interesting editorial, Mr B; so China has read the Riot Act to four parties. For those who don’t understand Chinese diplomat-ese in media, here’s a rough translation:

1.North Korea
You seem to behave as though you have a permanent nervous breakdown but we understand your paranoia – hard to deal with a cunning global psychopath who threatens war and destruction but expertly feigns being the good cop.
But watch your words because they can be twisted by your tormentors to demonize you as madman on a neighborhood rampage –so the phony good guy has to prescribe some heavy-duty meds.
Calm down & learn to roll with the punches from a 800-lb gorilla. You could still draw – even score - this uneven match.
2. USA
Shame on you. You are like the obese bully warden who tortures and torments the inmates because you have guns, batons and whips and they only have their hands and bodies.
You take sadistic pleasure in making life miserable for those who don’t treat you like king of the strut. But be careful with this one: he’s a tough nut. Don’t turn the screws too hard.
3. South Korea.
You have our sympathies, Madame President; that is why our dear leader Xi chastised your keeper but not you.
You are being emotionally blackmailed by both your poor but proud relative and the rich but nasty patron who prevents you from any contact with family, even though you want to.
You stand to lose the most in this family squabble. But learn to be your own person and stand up for your own interests.
Remember: we are with you.
4. Japan
You really are the worst type. No wonder Chinese scorn you as Little Japan.
You live up to it, with your yen for sneaky exploitation of trouble. Stop fishing for petty advantage in troubled waters – and we are not even talking about our Diaoyu islands.

Posted by: nakedtothebone | Apr 12 2013 17:48 utc | 50

Looking on the bright side, we can say that billions wasted on useless naval machines means less money to fill boots-on-the-ground. One reason the Navy wants to get to 300 ships is because it has 355 admirals, and is trying to get closer to even. (At the end of WWII the Navy had one admiral for every 130 ships.) The other reason is that they figure that they will never run out of third-world countries to beat up on and bomb. Also the Navy doesn't have the poor record that the Army has -- oh-for-four in Asia the last sixty years. The Navy really has no mission, so how can they lose?

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 12 2013 21:57 utc | 51

One reason the Navy wants to get to 300 ships is because it has 355 admirals, and is trying to get closer to even. (At the end of WWII the Navy had one admiral for every 130 ships.)

That's so effing weird that it's probably true.

One can imagine a real military outfit (one with huge balls and lots of clever ideas competing with each other) worrying about having spare ships. Only the dimwitted, self-obsessed, dumb-ass Yankees would think it's important to worry about having spare admirals...

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Apr 12 2013 23:12 utc | 52

It is true - Navy Times on admirals
Generals are bad but not that bad
1945 -- Army (including air force) 8.3 million, 1100 generals (7,545:1)
Army now -- 548 thousand, 306 generals (1,790:1)
Then you add all the line-tossers, horse-holders and meal-servers for all that excess human brass in the military services -- it's out of control
Is that why they never win a war any more?

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 13 2013 1:16 utc | 53

The update above calls for cooperation in shared security, which is different than every country promoting US security.

This new concept of shared security is in stark contrast to the parochial approach, which tends to view security based on one's own interests and needs. Driven by such an undesirable approach, a country will always calculate its own gains first whenever there is a regional or global security crisis.

This has been a problem particularly in Pakistan. Why won't Pakistan forget its own security and instead promote US security? Which is foolish, of course. Also in Syria. Why doesn't every country want to destroy an Iran ally, which is clearly in the US interest?

This shared approach was also a theme of the recent BRICS conference, where of course China has a lot of influence.

Our discussions reflected our growing intra-BRICS solidarity as well as our shared goal to contribute positively to global peace, stability, development and cooperation. We also considered our role in the international system as based on an inclusive approach of shared solidarity and cooperation towards all nations and peoples.

This all goes back to the constant bleating in Washington that the world wants a country to lead and the US must be that country. These bleaters never take the trouble to listen to what the rest of the world actually wants. But of course there's no profit in that.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 13 2013 1:32 utc | 54

here we go again, fukus stir up the shit, then ask china to clean up the mess !

*hey xi, dont u think u oughtta reign in nk ?*

this is what xi should've told kerry
*firstly , unlike sk n japan, nk isnt any *lapdog* of mine which would jump to my command, but more to the point..
fuck u, why dont u just stay at home n nobody will get hurt ?*

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