China’s Role in a Possible Restart of the Korean War

Published on Author peaseley

North Korea’s increasing aggressiveness is one of the biggest news stories in America today. The country’s leader, Kim Jong Eun, has openly stated that the United States is weak and he could easily destroy many of our naval bases in the Pacific. While these threats are taken with more than a grain of salt they have still caused an international uproar. Even if North Korea lacks the technology to seriously harm the United States, South Korea is certainly in danger. The capital Seoul is only 30 miles away from the border between the two countries. The Korean War of the 1950’s is technically not over since no peace treaty has ever been signed. How does China play into all of this?

China and the Unites States fought on opposite sides of the Korean War. China wanted to defend is communist neighbor and the United States was in the business of aggressively pushing democracy on the rest of the world. If fighting between the North and South resumed would China come to North Korea’s aid again, considering the United States still openly backs South Korea? “Beijing sees the recent U.S. moves to strengthen its missile-defense system and fly advanced bombers and fighter jets to South Korea as direct threats to its security interests. But it sees a greater threat in the prospect of North Korea either collapsing or reunifying with the South, both of which it believes would help the U.S. to “contain” China” (WSJ). China openly disapproves of North Korea’s actions but they are put in a tough situation.

While it seems every possible alternative will be explored, a military conflict between the United States and China would shake the international economy to the bones. This situation opens up another interesting question of whether a truly globalized economy could make another World War impossible.

Here are the links to the articles on CNN, WSJ and Fox.

7 Responses to China’s Role in a Possible Restart of the Korean War

  1. It seems as though China is seeing the U.S. as taking necessary measures. They understand that the U.S. must strengthen their bases in South Korea and Japan since North Korea has openly threatened the U.S. While it seems that China is an ally of North Korea, there has been no complaints or additional threats from Beijing. The people of China have even voiced their opposition against Kim Jong-un. I think that China is realizing that North Korea is too unstable at times and it is starting to anger them.

  2. The U.S. has committed to defending S. Korea if war breaks out on the Korean peninsula, and I think Washington is serious in this committment. On the other side, however, I do not believe China would back N. Korea militarily in the event of war. China has way too much to lose ecomomically, and little to gain politically. If a war did occur (which I think is very unlikey), China would stay on the sidleline.

  3. I have followed this issue for a couple decades, including hosting speakers at W&L (one was Chun Yungwoo, who just retired as South Korea’s National Security Advisor, though that wasn’t his post when he came to W&L). The topography makes instability in the North of more concern to China than to South Korea. And the North is weak, except for its weapons of mass destruction, which is a reversal from the situation in (say) 1970, when it was still the South that was weak. There’s no doubt that in the event of war the South can thoroughly destroy the North (which among other things doesn’t have enough fuel even to train its air force pilots). It would however be costly, because so much of the population in the south (1/3rd?) lives within artillery range of the North. But we have only a small military presence remaining in the South, and little ability (other than nearby units of the Air Force) to respond in a time frame relevant for whta would surely be a quick war. As I understand it, the South Korean war plan doesn’t build in a role for the US; they don’t need us and don’t want to be beholden to us (and certainly don’t want us trying to give orders).

    The history is complicated. China entered the war because Gen. Macarthur marched all the way to the border, contrary to orders from Washington (and he was duly sacked). Given the sabre rattling the US engaged in during the Cold War, and its own insecure grasp of the reigns of power in 1950, the PRC was understandably presumed ill intent on the part of the US. However, the North leaned heavily on the Soviets (in part to keep China at bay); Kim Jong Il, the current Kim’s father, spent his early years there and reputedly was as comfortable speaking Russian as he was Korean. More recently, with the collapse of the USSR and China’s own reform efforts, the North lost access to cheap energy, leading to economic collapse and famine. I don’t think the North views China as a friend, changes in their policy have done real harm.

    Anyway, I will see whether I can arrange to bring Mr. Chun back to campus, maybe in this next academic year.

  4. Given China’s stable transition, I find it unlikely that China would care too much about North Korea, apart from its nominal role as a buffer between China and an American puppet state. They have no ideological basis to do so, being basically capitalist, and have no political basis either.

  5. I have to agree, with all of the policy change in China since the initial Korean War it seems that the country would have less of a stake in trying to protect another communist country. Also, China has so much stake invested in the US now that it would be an unlikely move for them to willingly oppose the US in the event that war broke out.

  6. Though there were clear loyalties that were marked during the Korean war, I feel that the global economy has become so intertwined between the United States and China in the past 60 years that it is hard to believe that the same allegiances would hold even if another confrontation took place between North and South Korea. The subsequent consequences on economic trade would be catastrophic for both nations’ economies. On the other hand, China’s new government leaders and their focus on military preparedness and strength could speak to a new willingness on the country’s part to use more military aggression; however, I feel it is more to do with a symbolic message of strength than a desire to get into a confrontation with the United States.

  7. In a report today, John Kerry said that he had spoken to an official in China about strengthening the ties between the US and Chinese armies. China has no interest in going to war with us again, and I think they believe that Kim Jong Eun as a very unstable leader. I believe they would either stay out of the war, or come to the aid of the US.