US Vice President Mike Pence recently sent North Korea
a clear warning not to test the resolve of the Trump administration, nor the strength of the US armed forces with regard to its pursuit of a nuclear weapons program. Pence also said, "The era of strategic patience is over." Without question, those are the toughest remarks any top US official has ever said to North Korea in well over a few decades.
Pence said that he was heartened by early signs shown from China, hoping Beijing would "use the extraordinary levers they have" to prod Pyongyang into abandoning its nuclear program.
Pence said, "All options are on the table to achieve the objectives," thus repeating President Trump's warning that the US would act without China if necessary. Pence said Trump was hopeful China "will take actions needed to bring about change in policy" in North Korea. He added, "But as the President has made very clear, either China will deal with this problem or the United States and our allies will."
Changes have been made within strategic factors regarding North Korea's nuclear program. China and the US have expanded their efforts in cooperation in a variety of areas. Moreover, China has not only voiced concern over Pyongyang's nuclear tests while also supporting United Nations sanctions, but has also made it clear that should Pyongyang make any big moves against UN resolutions, China will consider stepping up sanctions currently in place.
It seems China and the US have collectively made up their minds to pursue further actions in trying to resolve North Korea's growing nuclear issue. The concern now is how the chance for this issue to remain unsolved is dramatically shrinking. Pyongyang is faced with the strategic option of either engaging in confrontation, a move that would threaten its regime, or it can return to the negotiation table.
Beijing will cooperate with Washington and stick to its own principles. Beijing established its goal in cooperation efforts by restraining Pyongyang's development of nuclear and ballistic missiles. Once this situation subsides, Beijing will also likely enact stricter measures on North Korea, such as banning petroleum exports. There is even the chance that Beijing could also say "yes" to a potential US imposed financial blockade against North Korea.
However, cooperative efforts by China and the US will under no circumstance evolve into any kind of military action against North Korea. Beijing will never support or cooperate with Washington when it comes to implementing solutions that involve using military force against Pyongyang. Nor will Beijing support increasing measures from Washington that involve the direct overthrow of the Pyongyang regime.
The US has not hesitated in the least to remind China that it hopes the country can utilize some sort of action in applying pressure upon North Korea; and should that not work, the US along with its allies will act by themselves to do the job. The underlying tone is clear in that Beijing better pursue all coercive measures possible in order to make Pyongyang give up its nuclear program, and that if that fails, the armies of the US and South Korea will act as they see fit.
The US should not stand by this so-called "first stage," merely waiting for some miracle to happen. Sanctions from Beijing will not inspire instant change over Pyongyang's nuclear program. Moreover, if Washington is not willing to take a flexible stand that guarantees security and peace, its stark warnings and sanctions will probably push Pyongyang to resist as best it can. As the old saying is understood, in order for a "stick" to achieve its desired goal, a "carrot" must be used at the same time.
Military action against North Korea is not an easy question to answer. If the blow is light, Pyongyang's military power would remain intact, and South Koreans could potentially face a revenge attack of some kind. One can only hope that Washington reaches out to Seoul for a second opinion. If the blow is heavy, the Chinese people will not allow their government to remain passive when the armies of the US and South Korea start a war and try to take down the Pyongyang regime. The Chinese will not let something like that happen, especially on the same land where the Chinese Volunteer Army once fought in the early 1950s. It is a land covered with the blood of Chinese soldiers who bravely fought in the early 1950s. Furthermore, if Pyongyang were to be taken by the allied armies of the US and South Korea, it would dramatically change the geopolitical situation in the Korean Peninsula.
The issues regarding the Korean Peninsula are thorny, and involve many factors ranging from the historical to the geopolitical. It serves common interests of both China and the US, and it is "common interest" that has become the prominent issue at the moment. Pyongyang's persistent pursuit of its nuclear program with blatant disregard to world opinions, has turned China and the US, once former enemies during the Korean War, into cooperating partners. If Pyongyang continues to insist on having its own way, then China and the US would inevitably increase sanctions.
Blessings and hope are in store for the North Korean government if it can remain aware of China's bottom line in working with the US. It is sincerely hoped that Pyongyang understands China holds no political malice in the potential overthrow of the Pyongyang regime despite its sanctions. Although China's sanctions may impose some difficulties, North Korea will not collapse as a result.
It would be a pity of historical consequence if Pyongyang were to continue with its obsessive and unrealistic nuclear ambitions, along with its ongoing complaining. As for China, the denuclearization of North Korea is a priority that sits above all of its other interests.