The World Is Dividing Into Camps And Russia/North Korea Will Fight With China
By Gordan Chang/Gatestone InstituteAugust 21, 2023
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This week, the U.S. Navy's Carrier Strike Group 5, centered around the USS Ronald Reagan, has been steaming off the east coast of Taiwan.
Be glad it is there. China has been throwing a diplomatic tantrum -- fiercer than usual -- because the Biden administration allowed William Lai Ching-te, Taiwan's vice president, to make "transit" stops in New York and San Francisco on his way to and from Paraguay.
Beijing in response promised "resolute and forceful measures." There have been numerous Chinese air and naval provocations near the embattled island republic in the last few days. As soon as Lai arrived in New York, the Chinese foreign ministry called Taiwan "the core of the core interests of China."
So, will China go to war soon? And if war comes, will it embroil the world's great powers?
China's regime has already declared a "people's war" against America, and has been waging such a struggle with its "unrestricted warfare" tactics.
But what about a "hot war"? War between China and the U.S. over Taiwan, as Henry Kissinger said in early June to Bloomberg, is "probable." China can still be deterred -- the presence of the USS Ronald Reagan is almost certainly giving the Chinese military second thoughts -- but one thing looks increasingly likely: If there is a war, Russia and North Korea will fight alongside China. The world is dividing into camps.
China is telling the world that Lai is a one-man provocation. For one thing, he is currently leading in Taiwan's January 13, 2024 presidential election, and Beijing is unhappy, to say the least. The Chinese Communist regime considers Lai, running on the Democratic Progressive Party line, the "separatist" candidate. Beijing has already labeled the frontrunner a "troublemaker through and through."
One American China-watcher, the astute Guermantes Lailari, thinks Chinese ruler Xi Jinping will move on Taiwan this month, perhaps taking one of its offshore islands. Others believe that he will wait for the January election before deciding what to do. These analysts see China's military exercises as merely an intimidation tactic, meant to make the Taiwanese "fear war."
In any event, Xi has internal reasons to go to war: His domestic policies are rapidly failing and his only way out is to rally the Chinese people with a crisis. He is in fact not only talking about war but also fast making preparations to wage one.
One of those many preparations is recruiting combatants. As Gregory Copley, president of the International Strategic Studies Association, told Gatestone, "The People's Republic of China will attempt to bring in those states that Beijing believes are its allies."
Xi is particularly counting on Russia and North Korea. The Russian and Chinese navies at the turn of the month sent 11 ships toward the Aleutians in an extremely provocative exercise. The effort was almost certainly intended to show that Moscow would fight with China against America over Taiwan. During the joint drill, the Chinese and Russians demonstrated progress in achieving interoperability by, among other accomplishments, developing joint command-and-control.
Furthermore, North Korea has rhetorically lined up on Beijing's side. On August 4, the Chinese affairs department of North Korea's foreign ministry called an American aid package for Taiwan a "dangerous political and military provocation." "It is," said a statement, "the sinister intention of the U.S. to turn Taiwan into an unsinkable advanced base against China and the first-line trench for carrying out its strategy for deterring China." Apparently, Beijing had leaned on its client state to make a pronouncement that had nothing to do with North Korea.
Copley, also editor-in-chief of Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy, suggested that China is not the leader it appears to be. "Moscow would probably not break with Beijing if it went to war to capture Taiwan, but it would be most reluctant to actually provide military aid, or military force, to Beijing," he says. That would be payback, he points out, for China not giving Moscow all it needs to fight in Ukraine.
Similarly, Copley stated that "Kim Jong Un cannot easily move against the PRC, but he will be careful about supporting Xi against Taiwan." "Yes," Copley said, "there would be 'demonstrations' of North Korean missile and nuclear capabilities, but Kim would be reluctant to do anything that might involve massive retaliation."
Copley is correct that Russia and North Korea would probably prefer to stay out of a conflict over Taiwan, but there are other factors at work.
First, a Chinese attack on Taiwan would allow Moscow and Pyongyang to grab territories they have long coveted. The Russians have desired all of Japan's northern islands, the Kurils, and North Korea wants to absorb South Korea.
Second, Russia and North Korea are particularly dependent on China, and China would lean on both of them with all it had.
Third, Moscow and Beijing are already close partners in combat in North Africa, where they are fueling insurgencies that look like wars.
Fourth, Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, and Kim Jong Un see the world in the same terms, and they all realize that none of them will accomplish their goals unless they get the United States out of the way.
Perhaps of greatest concern is that all three regimes share a nuclear weapons doctrine of "escalate to de-escalate" or "escalate to win": threatening the use of nuclear weapons to keep others from defending their intended victims. Xi and Putin appear capable of actually using their most destructive weapons. Kim in this regard is an unknown, but both his father and grandfather believed in taking everyone down with them. "If we lose, I will destroy the world," said Kim Jong Il, father of the current North Korean leader.
Kim Jong Un has apparently been inspired by Xi's and Putin's nuclear warnings. Beginning last year and continuing into this March, Kim has made threats to use nuclear weapons pre-emptively. His regime last year even enacted a law authorizing such use.
When aggressors threaten the use of nuclear weapons, anything can happen. America will have to be prepared that China, along with its friends, are willing to do anything to get what they want.