How Do You Solve A Problem Like Korea?

The Chinese president Xe Jinping has said recently that he is willing to help mend ties with South Korea, which have become more than a little strained since the deployment of the US missile-defence system there. But this ‘tension’ should be seen as nothing more than a public distraction or a magician’s ‘sleight of hand’.
North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, the reason for the defence system deployment in the first place, has seen even more media coverage than Donald Trump lately as a consequence of the intense missile testing this year alone, which has actually been a theatre play designed for the benefit of China.
International focus is now squarely on the Korean peninsula, with the Japanese and South Koreans feeling more than just a little vulnerable given that they are within striking distance of an apparent lunatic with missiles seemly capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
Nevertheless this is extremely unlikely event, unless a lot of other political manoeuvrings go wrong first, and if that happens we are already talking about world war three. No… North Korea should be viewed as nothing more than a strategic military outpost. Its purpose being two-fold:

  1. To act as a buffer to keep the US military presence at arm’s length. This does come at a price, but one that can still be turned to a Chinese advantage. That price is the economic threat to China of at least half of the 16 million people rushing in from North Korea if its dictatorship collapses. However, maintain the dictatorship of Kim Jong Un and the US will be extremely unlikely to strike it without worldwide condemnation; and
  2. Draw attention away from China’s activities around the South China Sea and the nine-dash line.

As can be seen, North Korea has been exceptionally good at maintaining its purpose in the eyes of the Chinese government. So much so, that nobody seems to be noticing China’s steadily growing control over Malaysia (one of the key strategic ports for building military defence over the South China Sea) while bailing out it’s corrupt kleptocrat prime minister, Najib Razak…