Most of the times, news and information is highly controlled, especially when it comes to news about military intelligence. However, sometimes just a little more information gets out than what was intended.
Such seems to have been the recent case of an article on the English language website of China’s military. It was later pulled from the site but a cached copy was saved automatically. Below in the entire article, and it is an interesting read because while there are attempts to give a clear propaganda spin on it, it actually gives a full exposure into China’s military policy regarding North Korea and its approach to any American encroachment on it:
BEIJING, April 7 (ChinaMil) — Global Times mentioned the bottom line of China on DPRK nuclear issue in an article titled Commentary: The United States Must Not Choose a Wrong Direction to Break the DPRK Nuclear Deadlock on Wednesday, triggering wide speculation.
According to the article, China very much hopes that the DPRK nuclear issue can be solved as soon as possible. But no matter what happens, China has a bottom line that it will protect at all costs, that is, the security and stability of northeast China.
In connection with this, DPRK’s nuclear activities must not cause any pollution to northeast China. In addition, the DPRK must not fall into the turmoil to send a large number of refugees, China will not allow the existence of a government that is hostile against China on the other side of the Yalu River, and the US military must not push forward its military forces to the Yalu River, the article said.
Some experts interpret this as China’s acquiescence to the United States’ strikes to the DPRK. Is this really the case?
First, “DPRK’s nuclear activities must not cause any pollution to northeast China.”
Is this sentence designed for the United States? Maybe, but it is designed for the DPRK more. We all know that the DPRK’s sixth nuclear test is imminent, and various parties, especially China, are generally worried about this.
It is very insidious for the DPRK to select Punggye-ri, located in Kilju County of North Hamgyong Province in DPRK, as the site for the nuclear test. The place is the farthest point from Pyongyang within the DPRK territory, but near the border of China and DPRK.
Residents in northeast China suffered every time DPRK launched a nuclear test. The news may remain fresh to us: buildings showed cracks, and students in classes were evacuated to the playgrounds.
With the increase in nuclear equivalents, the threat to the Chinese people nearby also surges. In particular, if by any chance nuclear leakage or pollution incidents happen, the damage to northeast China environment will be catastrophic and irreversible.
This is the bottom line of China, which means China will never allow such situation to happen. If the bottom line is touched, China will employ all means available including the military means to strike back.
By that time, it is not an issue of discussion whether China acquiesces in the US’ blows, but the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will launch attacks to DPRK nuclear facilities on its own.
A strike to nuclear facilities of the DPRK is the best military means in the opinion of the outside world.
Firstly, the locations of DPRK nuclear facilities are fixed and known to the outside.
Secondly, once the attack is launched, the DPRK’s nuclear weapons process will be permanently suspended. It has limited resources of nuclear materials and is strictly blockaded in the outside world, erasing the possibility for DPRK to get the materials again.
Thirdly, nuclear weapons is DPRK’s trump card for its defiance of China and the United States. Once this card is lost, it will become obedient immediately.
Finally, if DPRK’s nuclear facilities are destroyed, they will not even fight back, but probably block the news to fool its domestic people. The DPRK will freak out if its nuclear facilities are destroyed.
Second, “the DPRK must not fall into the turmoil to send a large number of refugees, it is not allowed to have a government that is hostile against China on the other side of the Yalu River, and the US military must not push forward its forces to the Yalu River.”
This sentence is meant for the United States, because the premise of it is that the US military has launched attacks to the DPRK. We can understand it from two aspects.
First, the 16th Group Army and the 39th Group Army of the Chinese PLA are both responsible for armed isolation of DPRK refugees. There is more than one such armed isolation zone which will not be laid exactly along the Sino-DPRK border, nor in China, but a few dozen kilometers from the border in the territory of DPRK.
Second, the statement of “the US military must not push forward its forces to the Yalu River”, and that the US’s ally Republic of Korea (ROK) must not push forward troops to the Yalu River as well is actually understood by the United States and ROK militaries that their troops will not encroach on the Yalu River.
During the Korean War in the 1950s, the United States-led united army troops from multiple countries announced that the united troops would not advance the battlefront to the Yalu River, but would stop at 40 miles (64 kilometers) south of the Sino-DPRK border. They called this line MacArthur Line back then.
The Global Times editorial also mentioned “it is not allowed to have a government that is hostile against China on the other side of the Yalu River.” What does that mean?
This is implying that once the US and ROK initiate the strikes, the Chinese PLA will send out troops for sure to lay the foundation for a favorable post-war situation.
From this perspective, the Chinese PLA’s forward operations beyond Pyongyang, capital of DPRK, are for sure.
China will not allow the situation in which areas north of the 38th Parallel are unified by the US and ROK.
This article brings up an interesting question: Why would China want to attack North Korea? Doesn’t that seem counter productive, especially if China is the DPRK’s only ally? Not so much if one looks at the geography and history of northeastern China in the area where it meets North Korea, Mongolia, and Russia.
Manchuria in China. Note its geographic location.
Northeastern China, or better known as Manchuria, is historically modern China’s center of industry. It is rich in oil, minerals, and other materials as well as in a strategic meeting point between the various peoples of northeastern Asia including Mongols, Russians, Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, and Tunguistic tribes. While the ethnic Chinese (Han) people control it, the economic value that can be pulled from the area in combination with the diverse people and beliefs as well as its location as a crossing ground between different countries makes it similar to Syria in terms of its history. It has historically been fought over and gone back and forth between different regional powers.
From a military perspective, a sizeable portion of China’s security depends upon the security and control over Manchuria because of its economic value. If they lose control of it, it is possible they could lose control over the rest of their country as it would handicap a large part of the Chinese economy. Because of the area’s proximity to their greatest historical enemy, Japan, who has also controlled and desired to control this area for a long time,they will take whatever means are necessary to make sure that Japan cannot or has no claims to justify invading Manchuria.
Kim Jong Un. He is just a puppet. China does not care what he does, and they even probably encourage him to harass Japan so long as he does not justify an actual invasion of Manchuria.
North Korea right now is a proverbial “dog on a leash.” They are basically allowed to exist as a vassal state of China. China does not care for the most part what North Korea does because they see it as both a buffer and a potential deterrent to Japan. As far as they are concerned, the DPRK can make all the threats and blow up as many bombs as they want in the name of attacking Japan so long as they do not go so far as to start an actual war.
Russia likewise has territorial and economic interests in this region. Historically it allies with China because due to the population of Russia versus China and the fact that Russia has considerable natural resources in Siberia that it is very uncomfortable about China encroaching on, it will nominally side with China in order to keep them happy and focused on their own territory and out of theirs. Likewise, Russia does not like the Japanese because the Japanese have historically attacked the Russians as well as tried to invade parts of Siberia.
Now enter into this picture the Americans. South Korea and Japan are historical allies with the USA. The USA views China as a threat and supports the Japanese to try to act as a “check” on the Chinese and the Russians. The Japanese benefit because America gives them free stuff at taxpayer expense and so uses our money to build itself up. China knows and does not like this.
The Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931 holding Chinese prisoners, which they held until 1945. Japan views the Chinese as their pet slaves and wants to dominate China. To do this they will likely attack Manchuria as among their first targets. China will seek to keep peace and if necessary, defend Manchuria at all costs because it is the difference between victory or defeat over Japan.
Under normal circumstances, China cares little what North Korea does. However, the fact that the USA is directly threatening North Korea and that given Kim Jong Un’s unstable temperament, he might actually attempt to attack an American troop presence. Again, the issue is not whether his attack would be successful or not- North Korea’s missles have been shown to be almost comical in their operation and would likely self-destruct well before reaching their intended targets. However, even the perception of an attack by the DPRK would be used by the USA as a justification for engaging in an actual war against North Korea that would naturally bring in the USA’s allies in South Korea and most importantly, Japan because just like Germany, Japan wants a war with China to attempt to revive its old Empire. Since China is the DPRK’s only ally, it would also drag China into a war and one that would take place right next to their main center of industry- Manchuria. Even if it did not start a war with China outwardly, it places China’s enemies too close to an area that is too valuable to them and that will interfere with their economic and political stability. Since Russia is an ally of China, it would at least nominally pull Russia into any conflict as well. This is something the Chinese will not have.
Japan’s Empire at its height in 1942 during World War II. Look well on this map, because this is what Japan wants to achieve just like how Germany wants to revive its imperial past.
China is going to protect Manchuria at all costs. It does not matter that they are North Korea’s ally, because the DPRK is only a buffer to protecting their real interests in Manchuria. They will sacrifice the DPRK at a moment’s notice if it means protecting Manchuria. Given that the USA and Japan are looking to provoke a war as the USA has done in Syria, it is in the interest of the Chinese to potentially use military force against the DPRK. This way should Kim Jong Un decide to act in a unhinged way at an inconvenient time for the Chinese, they cannot be accused of supporting the DPRK’s actions. To the contrary, it makes them look like they are in control and takes away the justification for invading the DPRK.
Keep in mind with all of this that none of these countries- the Chinese, the Americans, or the Japanese- actually care at all about to objective good of North Korea’s people, who live in abject poverty and starvation that is worse than in many African nations. China does not care about pollution or the safety of their own people, and they never have. They only see North Korea as a “wildcard” piece in a game of geopolitical chess. For the Americans and the Japanese, it is the justification to start a conflict with China. For the Chinese, it is their buffer against the Americans and the Japanese. The center of this issue is not actually North Korea at all, but rather the impending conflict between the Chinese and the Japanese that the Americans are trying to help start a war over.