One of the reviewers of The Gambit mentioned that “International intrigue and political thrillers have always been a popular genre, but in these tumultuous times, the fodder for such writers seems to have increased immeasurably.” For anyone focusing on Iran and, quite obviously, North Korea, this statement couldn’t be more accurate. North Korea’s race to achieve nuclear power status and ICBM capability seems destined for nothing more than a Pyrrhic victory—that is should the NORK’s follow in the footsteps of Iraq, Libya, and Syria. Obviously, the guy in the black suit with the funny haircut doesn’t want to mimic either Col. Muammar Qadaffi or Sadam Hussein, and I’m sure he doesn’t want to emulate Bashar Assad, either. However, Kim Jong-Un has one thing going for him that none of these other three had: a large, though potentially hollow, military that is holding a city of almost ten million people hostage to thousands of artillery pieces, or so the theory goes. There’s a lot at play in North Korea that is often overlooked:
To begin with, the West only has one goal: A North Korea devoid of nuclear arms and ICBMs. To this end, China could help but it needs to be made unmistakably clear to them that it is in their interest to reach this goal. Mind you, this is the West’s goal, not necessarily China’s. And remember, this is unmistakably within China’s sphere of influence, as distasteful as that term might be to many people. As such, it is incumbent upon those in the West, read the United States, to make it abundantly clear to China that this goal is in their interest as well—anything short of this, and most assuredly, it will not happen.
Secondly, the United States remains committed to a political—not a military—solution. To achieve this, China holds a vast interest; indeed, a solution without China’s import offers a bloody mess that makes the situations in Iraq, Libya, and Syria pale in comparison. Moreover, a military solution—without China’s involvement—opens the door to a decidedly bloody conflict—indeed the butcher’s bill could potentially run into the millions of lives—something that is in no one’s interest, though a rather cynical argument could be made it would be in China’s, as few, if any, of the lives lost would be Chinese. If a military action resulted, the Korean peninsula would be a ravaged and isolated land; the United States would be spent militarily, and quite possibly, economically.
Finally, the one event that holds the most likely scenario in deescalating the entire peninsula, is regime change. The only problem with this is that the current occupant at the head of the regime, Kim Jong-Un, has no intention of leaving—and the trail of bodies, including family members, left in his wake serves as apt notice that he will not leave of his own volition.
Enter the Chinese, who not only need to accept that regime change is not only in their interest, they need to convince Kim Jong-Un, that it is in his interest as well—if a peaceful solution is to be achieved.
Right now, we are a long ways away from this.