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 Post Posted: Tue Mar 14, 2017 7:04 am 
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Well, maybe not 99%, but...

North Korea is getting ready to fight a nuclear war, and to that end is building nuclear tipped missiles to attack South Korea, Japan, and perhaps parts of the U.S. South Korea has convinced the U.S. to install a missile defense system to protect them from the current crude and scanty nuclear missile capability of North Korea. China is having a temper tantrum.

"China?" you might be wondering. "Why Beijing and not Pyongyang?" Well, two reasons volunteer themselves. The first is the concern that the less South Korea needs to fear the immediate consequences of a war with the North, the more likely they are to try to deal with the long term risks by conquering the North outright. China has already fought one extremely expensive war in Korea in living memory, they're not eager to have to choose between another and having a strong American client state on their border.

The second concern is over the Chinese nuclear arsenal. While the US and Russia went nuts building tens of thousands of nukes, the Chinese decided on a 'just enough' nuclear arsenal. So they built a relative handful of missiles suitable to kill a few tens of millions of Russians and Americans based on the theory that wiping out China wouldn't be worth that to either one. So to the extent that the Americans adopt a tactic of shooting down nuclear missiles it would thus have a major impact on the Chinese deterrent (especially compared to the Russian one). Beijing doesn't really want to get involved in a nuclear arms race, especially not now that both Russia and the US have decreased their arsenals; and they equally don't want to lose the ability to deter an American attack. So they got annoyed.

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 Post Posted: Tue Mar 14, 2017 1:14 pm 
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China seems like the guy who's been keeping a vicious rottweiler in his yard to deter burglars and is now freaking out because the dog has taken a chunk out of the postman.

We have to assume that Kim Jong-un is, despite appearances, not suicidally insane. But is he crazy enough to start a conventional shooting war if the US doesn't cancel the missile shield?

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 Post Posted: Tue Mar 14, 2017 6:41 pm 
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I think it's highly unlikely; his army is pretty much utterly useless on the offense, and if the balloon goes up it's a given that his nuclear infrastructure and weapons would be immediately hunted down and destroyed unless they're used first. Basically, the only war Kim can start is a nuclear one, and that would be suicidal unless his nukes are used tactically to stop an attack from the South. In that case there is a very slim chance they might get the attacker to want give up rather than obliterate the North Korean state in revenge.

What's much more likely is that Kim, an unstable egomaniac with a very flimsy nuclear umbrella, will abreact to a false warning and launch a nuclear strike rather than lose that umbrella to a sneak attack. That the American nukes belong to an unstable egomaniac who is all too likely to decide to launch such an attack if he becomes convinced that we know where the NK nukes are can only make things even more interesting. Add in that the South Koreans would be perfectly happy to launch such an attack themselves, using conventional arms, if they think they know where the NK nukes are...well, it's imperfectly stable.

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 Post Posted: Tue Mar 14, 2017 8:54 pm 
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Well, South Korea currently has a gaping leadership vacuum. So that'll be fun.

China's so pissed off at Kim that they've stopped buying North Korean coal. But how much more can they do to rein him in? They're not going to do anything that results in regime change, obviously.

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 Post Posted: Wed Mar 15, 2017 6:43 am 
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I don't know how much influence China actually has in North Korea, but they might work towards something like a palace coup.

And if there is any instability in North Korea, they can come to the aid of the legitimate government and aid them against the rebels. Probably the Northern Korean government does not even need to ask for help.

And additionally to the other aggrevating factors, IIRC the current Chinese government seems desperate to show strength too. So if North Korea pulls on its leash too much, maybe they figure they have to send a signal to their other allies.

Still it could also be that China and North Korea do a good cop,bad cop show for the US, to stress the point, that China is a stabilizing factor, where it's imortant for the US to have a cordial relationship with them.

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 Post Posted: Thu Mar 16, 2017 6:00 am 
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China have to find someone in North Korea who is a) willing to challenge Kim Jong-un, b) can command the loyalty of the North Korean government and c) not dead or in a prison camp. That's probably pretty difficult these days. I mean, that's why Kim had his brother whacked, right? He was afraid that China was keeping big bro in their back pocket as a potential replacement.

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 Post Posted: Thu Mar 16, 2017 9:34 am 
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I know way too many details about North Korean palace machinations to determinate what is actually realistic. But by applying common patterns of dictatorships, it's likely that Kim rules at the pleasure of a number of factions/lobbies/interest groups.

China will already be to some degree in cahoots with some of theese.

So it could be, that China identifies one faction as the troublemakers and might work towards disgracing that faction. In that case Kim can stay, just his politics get adjusted, the "coup" would be more a palace intrigue, that changes second and third row personell.

Or they can somehow bribe or coerce factions, they don't already have in their pocket to take part or stay neutral in a coup. Then likely it will the price for one faction to change sides, that they can nominate the new leader.

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 Post Posted: Fri Mar 17, 2017 7:00 pm 
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In a pinch, the Chinese have the option of taking out the NK nukes themselves and sending the PLA south as liberators. Risky as heck, yes; but if things get dire it may be the least bad choice to keep the South Koreans and the Americans away from Manchuria.

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 Post Posted: Sun Mar 19, 2017 8:48 am 
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Well, the Chinese have called for cooler heads, and the North Koreans have announced the successful test of a more powerful rocket engine. A successful test (if true) and deploying it in the field are two rather different things, but we do seem to be looking at two slightly different agendas here.

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 Post Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2017 12:33 am 
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Weremensh wrote:
In a pinch, the Chinese have the option of taking out the NK nukes themselves and sending the PLA south as liberators. Risky as heck, yes; but if things get dire it may be the least bad choice to keep the South Koreans and the Americans away from Manchuria.


If anyone knows where North Korea's nukes are kept, it would be the Chinese, but I doubt even they know where all of them are. I also don't see them going to war with North Korea unless they thought South Korea was going to invade first. If that happens, things will have already gone spectacularly wahoonie-shaped.

So what we have here is an unhinged stalemate? The US will never remove its missile shield and Nikki Haley's position is basically "haha, call me if you're ever sober", and Kim Jong-un will have a series of tantrums but assuming he hasn't got a death wish, will not attack anybody?

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 Post Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2017 10:42 am 
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That's more or less what it's been for 10-40 years, isn't it?

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 Post Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2017 11:56 am 
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Superpower cold war scenarios often consist of using mountain shaping equipment to carefully shift a molehill by some inches.

I am fairly certain Trump will not be competent at that and he will cut the legs out from under anyone in his administration, who is.

Not knowing much about the competence of the current Chinese government, i would give them good chances to capture a couple of molehills in the next years.

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 Post Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2017 12:11 pm 
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Barring mistakes, that's probably right. Unfortunately, tiny new nuclear arsenals make mistakes much more likely than not. So place your bets.

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 Post Posted: Mon Mar 20, 2017 11:07 pm 
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arcosh wrote:
I am fairly certain Trump will not be competent at that and he will cut the legs out from under anyone in his administration, who is.

He's already undermining Tillerson. Tillerson was in South Korea this week trying to reassure them that his boss isn't unhinged over North Korea; Trump then goes and says something unhinged. As a member of the non-batpoop crazy club in the Trump administration, he is not allowed to do much. I think his job is to facilitate oil deals with Russia, oversee State Department budget cuts, and little else.

arcosh wrote:
Not knowing much about the competence of the current Chinese government, i would give them good chances to capture a couple of molehills in the next years.

I'd say competence = high. But this is undermined by jingoism = high, paranoia = high and factional infighting = high. Xi Jinping is the most paranoid, dictatorial Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, and that's saying something.

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 Post Posted: Sun Apr 02, 2017 5:30 pm 
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Trump has let it be known that if China won't deal with North Korea, the U.S. 'totally' will. But to be on the safe side he dropped a few extremely subtle hints that the Chinese should be involved, or perhaps just do it themselves. Mind you, the rest of us might see his subtle hints as not terribly subtle threats. But I'm sure he'll approach this situation with all the diplomacy and dedication he gave to the AHCA matter, so it will all work out.

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