North East: Asia’s Conundrum
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Issue Vol. 33.2 Apr-Jun 2018 | Date : 13 May , 2018

The question that arises is – can the countries of North East Asia cooperate and bring stability in the region? For any meaningful cooperation in North East Asia, two factors stand out that would always cast their shadow on the geo-political relations among the countries of the region. First, is the historical baggage carried by Japan for her ruthless invasions in the first half of the twentieth century. The Russo-Japanese War broke the might of a European power by an Asian power and subjected Russia to a humiliating treaty at Portsmouth. It resulted in Japanese occupation of the Korean peninsula and resultant oppression and use of Koreans as ‘comfort women’ for the Japanese Imperial Army during the Second World War. Then was the Sino-Japanese war; the rape and sack of Nanking and the atrocities that were committed on its people by the Japanese Imperial Army, was indeed a sad chapter, as yet unforgotten in the minds of the Chinese. All this has caused a xenophobia among the Chinese and Koreans towards Japan. It may take another generation to heal the wounds and soothe the minds for positive relations to be built.

If there is a part of the world that has seen intense churning in recent times, it is the geopolitical cauldron of North East Asia. The nations of the region in the cauldron are Russia, the Koreas, China and Japan while the outside players are the US, ASEAN, India and Australia. North Korea conducted nine missile tests and one thermonuclear test last year.1 Its ninth missile test in 2017 ‘Hwasong-15’ confirmed its credentials to threaten all the cities in the US including New York and Washington.2 Even if it were to drop short of the US mainland, the resultant tsunami and the nuclear fallout would have a devastating effect on its Western coast. All that is left, is how soon a hydrogen bomb would be ready. However, it is believed that it already has a stockpile of fission bombs.3 Time is running out and sooner the world is able to bring it to sanity, the better it is for its safety. Next; what about allies of the US namely South Korea and Japan? Two of the North Korean missiles flew over the island of Hokkaido creating a crisis in Japan. South Korea, across the 38th parallel, is ever vulnerable and precariously placed. Kim Jong Un is determined not to end up as Saddam Hussein or a Gaddafi, but to live and thrive on his own terms as a renegade. The world is caught in a ‘Catch 22’ situation. China is watching the geo-political power-play and as smug as she is at the precarious situation of the US and her allies, China is not very comfortable with her own lack of control over Kim.

Her occupation of Tibet a year after the founding of the PRC was her first move to assert her future resolve….

Historical Baggage of Japan

The question that arises is – can the countries of North East Asia cooperate and bring stability in the region? For any meaningful cooperation in North East Asia, two factors stand out that would always cast their shadow on the geo-political relations among the countries of the region. First, is the historical baggage carried by Japan for her ruthless invasions in the first half of the twentieth century. The Russo-Japanese War broke the might of a European power by an Asian power and subjected Russia to a humiliating treaty at Portsmouth. It resulted in Japanese occupation of the Korean peninsula and resultant oppression and use of Koreans as ‘comfort women’ for the Japanese Imperial Army during the Second World War. Then was the Sino-Japanese war; the rape and sack of Nanking and the atrocities that were committed on its people by the Japanese Imperial Army, was indeed a sad chapter, as yet unforgotten in the minds of the Chinese. All this has caused xenophobia among the Chinese and Koreans towards Japan. It may take another generation to heal the wounds and soothe the minds for positive relations to be built.

Paranoia of China

The second factor is the ‘Century of Humiliation’ suffered by China from mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth century. In this period, the Chinese, who were so proud as a ‘Middle Kingdom,’ were defeated, exploited and humiliated by Britain, France and the US. During the Opium Wars, the summer palace at Beijing, considered to be an architectural splendour, was pillaged and burnt. Chinese silk, pottery and tea were traded with opium to make their population addicted and also to ensure a continuous demand for opium from the addicted population. The Boxer Rebellion and its reprisals by Western powers against China and its own civil war, added to its woes.

This experience has made China unforgiving, expansionist and seized with paranoia to redeem her insult. Her occupation of Tibet a year after the founding of the PRC was her first move to assert her future resolve. Her continued repression including the extermination of over 86,000 Tibetans in the aftermath of 1959 uprising, has shown that she will not hesitate to use force to safeguard her national interest.4 Also; her border conflict with Russia, Vietnam and India and recently, her intimidating stance in Bhutan, has shown unambiguously that she would use force to solve border disputes.

China has crafted geo-strategic arrangements around her with a long-term perspective…

China’s belligerence has been displayed on the seas as well. Her occupation of the South China Sea, construction of artificial islands to manufacture sovereignty in utter disregard to the claims and sensitivity of the rim countries of the ASEAN, has been her method of employing military power without inhibition. Also, she displayed absolute disdain towards the verdict of Permanent Court of Arbitration convened under the UNCLOS that had dismissed Chinese claims over the South China Sea as balderdash. Her diplomatic manoeuvre, to split the ASEAN countries by bribing smaller countries such as Laos and Cambodia to ensure that no resolution is passed against her for expansion into the South China Sea has entailed that there is no collective opposition to her expansion. Her unilateral declaration of ban on fishing and intent to impose an ‘Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ)’, has literally threatened the sovereignty of the South East Asian countries. It has also threatened the ‘Freedom of Navigation’ in the South China Sea, where world trade of over five trillion dollars passes each year.5 Presently, China is sitting astride the shipping lanes that can threaten the world economy; an intimidating prospect indeed! China is unrelenting, as her previous experience of exploitation is weighing on her mind so heavily that she perceives that this is the time to exploit other countries, as a sweet revenge to what she had suffered previously. To expect any accommodation from China, to improve the conundrum of North East Asia, is indeed far-fetched.

China’s Geo-strategy

China has crafted geo-strategic arrangements around her with a long-term perspective. She has created a strategic redoubt both on her Eastern and Western flanks. On the West, she has created a rogue state out of Pakistan, whom she has nuclearised.6 Thereafter, she encouraged Pakistan to share nuclear technology with North Korea in return for missile technology.7 By this barter, she created Nuclear and Missile powers on both Western and Eastern Flank. The former would take care of India and the latter South Korea and Japan, in addition to the US. Now, she can fight her potential adversaries through proxies. It is a calculated and smart geo-strategy.

China has replicated the same strategy over and over again; if one analyses her strategic thinking for the past 200 years. As a ‘Middle Kingdom’, she had her ‘Han Heartland’ protected by barbarians – Manchus, Mongols, Hui, Uyghurs, Tibetans and Zhuang in the outer perimeter. The same concept has been extended to its East and West in having rogue nations Pakistan and North Korea being the first line of defence against potential adversaries. A similar design has been replicated on its Eastern Seaboard facing the Pacific Ocean. The First Chain and Second Chain of Islands are its protective perimeters. The occupation of South China Sea, by construction of artificial islands and manufactured sovereignty, is to fortify the first chain of islands. We can see how the same geostrategic mindset has been applied for centuries in protecting the Chinese heartland. As she enhances the capability of her armed forces, she would like to engage the enemy as far forward as possible so that the wars are waged far away from her mainland. A study of her weapons profile proves the point.

North Korea’s nine missile tests and the sixth nuclear test, have given her a shield of invincibility…

Sino-Japanese Conflict Points

In the East China Sea, China is in conflict with Japan for the Islands of Senkaku, which she refers to as ‘Diaou’; these islands are controlled by Japan. The present owners of these islands are also Japanese citizens. Here again, China has repeatedly sent patrol boats and fighter jets to intimidate the Japanese, who are holding these islands. There have been clashes with fishing vessels from China intruding into the territorial waters of Japan. China has again unilaterally declared ADIZ in the East China Sea, transgressing into Japanese air space. China is aggressively pushing Japan away from its pacifism towards a more provocative stance.

Again in 2013, China unilaterally converted her ‘Nine Dash Line’ an arbitrary line showing more than 90 percent of the South China Sea as her own – into a ‘Ten Dash Line’. The Tenth dash drawn East of Taiwan incorporated Taiwan to be within her territory.8 This action, not only came in conflict with Taiwan; but also with Japan. The last island of Japanese archipelago, Yonaguni is just 111km from the Eastern Coast of Taiwan. Obviously, the territorial waters claimed by Taiwan, Japan and China, have again come into conflict. Here, China instead of heralding peace is increasing the conflicting points in the region. Little wonder that Japan has a rethink on her constitution that professes only self-defence.

North Korea: A ‘Frankenstein Power’

It has become a ‘Frankenstein Power’ feared by the whole world as it has an ‘H’ Bomb and a delivery system that can traverse the Pacific Ocean. It is challenging the might of the leading world power – the USA. The biggest vulnerability of the US is her allies, who are literally at the mercy of North Korea. Japan has deployed the Aegis Ashore (Land Based Anti-Missile System) and South Korea has deployed the Theatre High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) System. The fact that PM Abe got a thumping re-election victory also shows that the people of Japan have supported his militant stance.

North Korea’s nine missile tests and the sixth nuclear test have given her a shield of invincibility. It has taken a more aggressive stance against the world in general and the US in particular. There is a panic in South Korea as in the event of a war, the first nuclear weapons would be rained on her notwithstanding the fallout that may affect North Korea itself. The Chairperson of South Korea’s ruling party Ms Choo Mi-ae has warned the US that it should not resort to any military action without the consent of South Korea.9

In an absolutely strategic move, on New Year’s day, Kim offered the olive branch to South Korea and even decided to consider sending a contingent to ‘Winter Olympics’ at Pyeongchang. In the same vein, he warned that the nuclear button is on his table and if he is threatened, he would not hesitate to use it against the US. This diplomatic ‘coup de grace’ has softened South Korea’s attitude towards the North. With the North Korean contingent in the games village, it gives the required security from terrorist attack that could disrupt the games. As expected, a delegation from South Korea met the North Korean delegation at Panmunjom. The athletes of the two Koreas have decided to march under a unified flag at the opening ceremony and also to field a joint women’s hockey team. In the last count, they also held a practice session together. President Moon of South Korea has indeed fallen headlong into the trap laid out for him. He has not only decided to postpone the joint exercise with the US Navy, but is also having a rethink on deployment of the ‘THAAD’ missile system, inducted by the previous regime.10

In North East Asia, Japan has emerged as a lead player that can compete with China…

The move by North Korea is a master stroke to gain time to operationalise the fusion bomb and refine its launch capacity achieved during the tests conducted last year. The world should realise that these are the geopolitical games played by the wily Kim. It does not need immense knowledge on geopolitics to read between the lines. Will Kim ever agree to unite with democratic South Korea? Will not, as he and his family members would be thrown out in the very first elections! Secondly; would the unified Korea ever be under the totalitarian dictator like Kim? Would the South Koreans ever agree to such a proposal in their wildest dreams? The answers are obvious. The unpredictability of North Korea has become its strategic asset, as it can twist and turn the geo-strategy of North East Asia to its advantage by clever manoeuvre and putting out the spectre of nuclear threats and playing on the psyche and compulsions of other countries in the fray.

US and her Allies

The US has two of her close allies in South Korea and Japan with her troops and bases stationed in these two countries. She also has Taiwan in the extended neighbourhood of the region. Sad but true that South Korea and Japan have issues between them. In addition to the historical baggage carried by Japan, there is also a dispute over rocky islets of Dokdo/Takeshima. Hence, the real bonhomie between the allies is lacking. However, they have healthy trade relations and also in the face of a common threat, have a common ally in the US.

Currently, in addition to the US 7th Fleet responsible for the Western Pacific Ocean, she has additional two aircraft carriers making it a total of three aircraft carriers in the Sea of Japan. The attendant surface vessels and submarines that accompany such a large and powerful flotilla is mind-boggling. An array of destroyers, corvettes, patrol vessels, helicopter ships, submarines and logistics ships occupy a couple of hundred kilometres of sea and undersea spaces. The flotilla has been joined with seven battleships of the South Korean Navy and also ships from the Japanese Self Defence Forces. This has to be seen in conjunction with the US forces based at Pusan (Chinhae), Seoul, Okinawa which are on high alert to join the conflict at a moment’s notice. Not to forget, the US air and naval base at Gaum which is monitoring the operational situation round-the-clock.

Also, in the air, are the Airborne Warning & Air Control System (AWACS) platforms and satellites, which are giving 24/7 coverage and intelligence over the entire extended battle area. The helicopters hovering over and around the flotilla provide close and immediate updates of the immediate battle area. Overall, it is a combat force of over 300 fighter jets, fifty helicopters and thousands of marines. This force can be unleashed from the Sea of Japan at a moment’s notice; no doubt a formidable force that can make any country wilt.

President Trump’s ‘New Security Strategy’ is to keep the balance of power in favour of the US in the Indo-Pacific Region, Europe and Middle East…

In spite of the above, the biggest weakness of the US is that her own house is not in order. The ‘deep state’ in the US government does not give President Trump an unbridled say in major decision-making. With the enquiry into the likely Russian connections during the elections being an issue; earlier Michael Flynn and now George Papadopoulos, President’s first National Security Adviser and his Election Campaign Aid respectively have been exposed. The chinks in the Presidential armour are getting deeper, further curtailing his moral authority.

The disparate statements from the President and his Secretary of State, Tillerson on North Korea, have portrayed doubts that the President’s own confidants are not in sync with him. The just released book ‘Fire and Fury’ with inputs from Steve Bannon, former Chief Executive of Presidential Campaign and later, his Chief Strategist, has created controversies that has roiled the Presidential image. Lastly, the ‘America First’ policy, President Trump’s campaign promise smacks of a repeat of earlier ‘Munroe Doctrine’, where America sought isolationism rather than involvement in European affairs. President Trump’s washing his hands off East Asia and his wholesome praise of Xi has made Japan, Korea and even Taiwan perceive a feeling of abandonment. His abrogation of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade block proposed by former President Obama as a counter to China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative has raised doubts about America’s commitment in providing global leadership. Naturally, her allies in North East Asia are countering the fallout by self-reliance and by crafting new and innovative geo-political realignments.


Russia is the next big player in the conundrum, which can make a difference. However, the sanctions imposed on her by the EU and the US for her assimilation of Crimea, has left her with no choice but to join China, as she is an ever-ready market for her oil and natural gas. A $400-billion gas deal between the two countries was signed in 2014.11 Two oil pipelines are operative for transporting 30 million tonne per year of crude from Russia to China.12 Russia also has a running feud with Japan over the sovereignty of Kurile Islands presently controlled by Russia and claimed by Japan. It is difficult for both the countries to resolve the dispute, as it has become an issue of national honour, as there is still an overhang of the humiliation suffered by the Russians in Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. The islands were occupied by Russia after the defeat of Japan in the Second World War. Though the resolution of the dispute seems far-fetched even to consider, Japan, US and the EU can cooperate and wean Russia off from China.

Russia is also in secret parleys with North Korea as they share a common land border. Putin is also observing Trump’s predicament with curiosity and amusement; he wants to play a role in freezing North Korea’s nuclear programme in return for a freeze in South Korea and US joint exercises that threaten North Korea. It is similar to China’s policy of ‘double freeze’, which the US is unwilling to consider. If Russia negotiates with Kim successfully, it will herald her world power status, which she had lost to China in the last two decades. It is geo-politics at its best, where each country is deriving pleasure out of the discomfort of other competing countries and is strategising – what best can serve their national interest in the prevailing conundrum.

Japan in a Leadership Role

In North East Asia, Japan has emerged as a lead player that can compete with China. Besides being the third largest economy, politically she is under an astute leader who has the sagacity to assume the leadership. The prevailing geo-political situation and the aggressive stance of China, are pushing Japan towards militarisation. In 2015, Japan reinterpreted Article 9 of the constitution and asserted that the clause of ‘Collective Defence’ enables her to come to the aid of her allies.13 Prime Minister Abe, after his massive mandate in the elections of 2017, intends to legitimise the existence of ‘Self Defence Forces’ by an amendment in the Japanese constitution by 2020. Its defence budget for the year 2018 has increased to $45.6 billion. Joint naval exercises are being carried out with the US, India and Australia. Recently Prime Minister Abe met the trade ministers of 11 countries to form the ‘Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership’ to counter China’s ‘Belt and Road’ initiative.14 Even UK is interested in joining the group.15 Japan also has activated the ‘Quad’ comprising US, Japan, India and Australia. Even though the character of Asia-Pacific has now been termed as Indo-Pacific, it is just a change in terminology. However, the prism though which the region is being looked at, is quite clear and unambiguous.

Japan also has opted for an ‘Open Indo-Pacific Strategy’, which pursues stability and prosperity on the basis of an international rule-based order in the region. Her negotiations with China would be on the basis of parity to respond to China’s maritime assertiveness.16 Her economic strength, science and technological prowess and her industrial capacity is now being backed with enhanced military might that would give Beijing a run for its money in the geo-politics of the Western Pacific.


China’s aggressive stance along her borders has made India search for suitable strategic partners in the ‘Big Game of Geo-strategy’. Though, President Trump in his ‘New Security Strategy’ has called India a strategic partner, one needs to see the positive fallout of the new strategy. The recent stoppage of $255 million aid to Pakistan and the accountability sought from it, is indeed a positive step, but needs to be watched as to how it would manifest on ground. The looming threat of enforcing stringent rules for H1B visa not being pursued so assertively is another positive step. However, we cannot put all our eggs in the basket of President Trump. Hence, the reactivation of ‘Quad’ by Japan is a good bait to bite. The Bi-annual Naval Exercise ‘Milan’ has to be expanded to include the countries of Quad and Singapore. Gradually, the exercise should include Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia and other ASEAN countries. Its frequency should be increased from biannual to annual exercise. It should be held alternatively in the Bay of Bengal and the Western Pacific Ocean. The India – ASEAN commemorative summit in New Delhi focused on counter terrorism, security and connectivity. Freedom of Navigation and Maritime Cooperation and Security was the theme during the retreat. Beyond doubt, it is to counter an assertive China in the Indo-Pacific theatre including the South China Sea.

The above realignment would also give the Indian Navy the outreach into the South and East China Seas. India also should enhance her naval capacity to choke entry points into the Indian Ocean from the Pacific Ocean, like the Straits of Malacca, Sunda, Lombok and Timor Sea. These strategic cards are diplomatic leverages while dealing with China on the border issue.

India, Australia and the rim countries of the Indian Ocean should cooperate to ultimately keep extra-regional powers out of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). The IOR countries should ensure freedom of navigation for world trade in the Indian Ocean and also be the net security provider. China’s frantic base-building spree in Djibouti, Gwadar/Jiwani, Maldives, Hambantota, Chittagong and Kyauk Pyu needs to be contested.

The Way Forward

President Trump’s ‘New Security Strategy’ is to keep the balance of power in favour of the US in the Indo-Pacific Region, Europe and Middle East. It means whatever is required to keep US dominance in North East Asia would be done. It also implies reigning in North Korea, keep China reconciled and accept the US’ dominating presence in the Western Pacific Ocean as well as continuing with the ‘hands off Taiwan’ policy and non-recognition of China’s ‘Nine Dash Line’ in the South China Sea. He has called Russia and China as revisionist powers. However, he wants to build great partnerships with them keeping US interests in mind. It is a cold and calculating strategy with the hand of friendship extended towards both Russia and China. His visit to five countries in the Indo-Pacific Region last November has to be seen in light of this policy which was announced subsequent to this visit.

In pursuit of this policy, he is asking China to apply pressure on North Korea to desist from further nuclear and missile testing in return for lifting sanctions and providing aid. His trust in Xi is unfounded as the latter is also playing his geopolitical cards deftly. It may also be partly true that China’s power to control Kim Jong Un is apparently limited. President Xi’s special representative Song Tao was sent to North Korea for a customary briefing to another socialist country on the recently concluded ‘19th Plenary Meeting of the CPC’. However, even he did not get the audience of Kim, thus making it explicit to China, its limited control over North Korea.

China is not disappointed with the rebuff as it can tell the US that they are also helpless in pressurising Kim to toe the line. The recent revelation by South Korea of Chinese oil getting transported on high seas to a North Korean tanker has exposed China’s duplicity.17 Obviously China is ‘running with the hare and hunting with the hounds’ – a pretty situation, where it can shirk the responsibility towards the irresponsible North Korea and at the same time, provide it with essential logistics to sustain and cause disarray in the US camp. For the US, the cost to sustain such a huge force for a long time in the Western Pacific is enormous. Longer this intransigence, greater would be the economic and political cost to the US.

As mentioned above, Kim’s diplomatic manoeuvre by offering talks to South Korea, opening up the hotline and sending a contingent for the Winter Olympics has divided the US and her allies. South Korea has accepted the proposal with undue haste even shedding the customary time that is required for perfunctory consideration, consistent with its national dignity. The US also had to accept the delay in the Annual Joint Military Exercise with South Korea, as it does not want to show to the world that it is an impediment in the rapprochement. Incidentally, President Trump is taking the credit for Kim’s offer on the grounds that it was due to his pressure that brought Kim to offer an olive branch to South Korea. Whatever be its interpretation, the actual fact is that Kim is gaining time to operationalise his capability of a fusion bomb and ballistic missile to credibly threaten the US mainland. The US should not shy away from this truth, whatever be its political compulsions.

Hence what is the alternative? The US has to wait and watch the developments in the region rather than shape the geopolitical situation in the region. Till the time the Winter Olympics successfully concludes, South Korea is exceptionally vulnerable and no one would like to cause an imbalance in the precarious peace or tenuous geopolitics of the region. President Trump’s statement that he is prepared to meet Kim should be considered as his accepting the present situation for the time being.

The US is not ruling out a military option. If Obama got rid of Osama, Trump would also like to make history at Kim’s expense. The massive naval force would continue to be in the Western Pacific Ocean. Any offensive into North Korea for a regime change would require much more intelligence about North Korea’s actual nuclear and missile capabilities. It would require much more legwork for the CIA to penetrate the steel curtain of North Korea and cause dissension among the confidants of Kim Jong Un who is believed to trust no one. The operations have to take place with lightning simultaneity. The first is the ‘Electromagnetic Assault’ with an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) over the entire geographical area of North Korea. It should be able to incapacitate all the electronics of the entire country. It is indeed a technological challenge and scientists need to work on it as was done for a ‘Neutron Bomb’, which gave out enhanced radiation, while limiting the blast.

Similarly, what is required is an ‘Enhanced Electromagnetic Pulse’ to be generated without blast and radiation that only neutralises the electronics of the country. The pulse should be strong enough to even incapacitate ‘EMP hardened’ devices in North Korea. It should be followed with rapid simultaneity, the destruction of nuclear arsenal and launch pads and incursion of Special Forces, which should neutralise its leadership and take over the country in collusion with leaders who are sympathetic to the cause. The destruction of the entire North Korean Armed Forces is not an option as it has the fourth largest armed forces in the world. Its leadership needs to be subverted as was done with the commanders of Saddam’s Republican Guard.18 It should be entirely a covert operation with surprise as the key element to the plan.

The US should not forget her experience in the Korean War as a part of UN Forces, when the ‘People’s Voluntary Army’ (PVA) of China joined the war with over a million men. It was a tough battle that ended in a stalemate. The assessment of the ‘China Factor’ would be the most difficult part of the US strategy. If the reports are right, China is already keeping her troops ready and building a six-lane highway in Jilin Province that borders North Korea.19 It could be a move to put pressure on the US not to indulge in military operations. It should not be a repeat of history. On October 15, 1950, when President Truman met General MacArthur at Wake Island, they came to a conclusion it was most unlikely that China would intervene in the Korean War. Just four days later, over 100,000 troops of PVA crossed the Yalu in the first phase of offensive. The ability to read President Xi’s bluff correctly or otherwise, would make President Trump either a professional or an amateur in geopolitics. His ability to exercise his military options successfully would make him a genius in world history.

Click to buy (Vol. 33.2 Apr-Jun 2018)


It is now left to the US to unravel the conundrum in North East Asia and use it to its advantage. Currently, in the first round, it was Kim, who has played his cards well and postponed possible military action, if intended, by two months. It gives him time for the ‘H’ bomb and ballistic missiles to be operationalised. For the US, the disarray among its allies is unfortunate. South Korea has again brought up the issue of ‘comfort women’ that was once settled with Japan. Prime Minister Abe has rejected the proposal and is unlikely to attend the Opening Ceremony of Winter Olympics.20 Like Kim, President Trump is also unpredictable and is able to re-engineer the geopolitics of the region. His defence secretary, General Mattis and NSA, General McMaster, both professionals, would indeed give him correct advice on the use of military forces in North Korea. The time gained would also give the US opportunity to gauge the inscrutable China. The key to untangle the conundrum lies in the cooperation by China and possibly, Russia. If the US goes it alone, the conflict could conflagrate into a nuclear exchange. In that case, if North Korea is obliterated, it would still be a defeat for the US.


1. McCurry Jutine and Borger Julian: Japan Braces as North Korea threaten hydrogen bomb test in Pacific: The Guardian; 21 Sep 2017.

2. Keating Joshua; North Korea Can Now Hit Washington with a Missile and We are going to have to live with that: Slatest; 29 Nov 2017;

3. North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons; Al Jazeera News; 01 Jan 2018;

4. Facts and Details; Chinese Takeover Tibet in 1950s:

5. Fensom Anthony; $5 Trillion Meltdown: What if China Shuts Down The South China Sea: The National Interest; 16 Jul 2016.

6. Karnad Bharat; Countering the Rogue Nuclear Triad with China, Pakistan and North Korea: The Wire: 25 Jul 2017.

7. Ibid.

8. Callar Michaela Del; ‘China’s new 10 Dash line map eats into Philippine Territoy’; GMA News Online; 26 Jul 2013;

9. South Korean Says “US must not strike North Korea without Seoul’s consent”: Reuter News; World News; 15 Nov 2017.

10. Subramaniam Garimella; Another Window; The Hindu Newspaper, Bengaluru City Edition; 25 Jan 2018.

11. Farchy Jack and Hille Kathrin; ‘China and Russia sign $400 billion Deal’; Financial Times; 22 May 2014.

12. Shuo Zou and Xin Zheng; ‘2nd Line of China-Russia Oil Link Starts’ The State Council; The People’s Republic of China; 03 Jan 2018:

13. Paliwal Pinaky; ‘Reinterpreting Article 9 of Japanese Constitution: War, Peace and Self Defence’; pg 1;

14. AP; Kyodo; ‘TPP 11 Forge Ahead with Renamed Trade Pact after close call’; The Japan Times, 11 Nov 2017.

15. Smout Alistair; ‘Britain interested in joining Trans –Pacific trade deal after Brexit; Financial Times; 03 Jan 2018.

16. Aneja Atul; Bilateral Visits set to Deepen Ties Between Japan and China; The Hindu Newspaper; Bengaluru City Edition, 25 Jan 2018.

17. Choe Sang Hun; ‘South Korea Ships seizes Ship suspected of sending oil to North Korea’; The New York Times; 29 Dec 2017.

18. Mueller Arabist Eric; ‘Bribed Iraqi Generals Already in US. CIA Used Peace Shields’ Newswire; 15 Apr 2003.

19. Trayner David; ‘China is Preparing for a massive Land Invasion of North Korea Revealed’ Daily Star Sunday; 16 Oct 2017.

20. Kim Chiristina; ‘South Korea’s President Moon meets former ‘Comfort Women’ Reuters World News; 4 Jan 2018.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Gen PG Kamath

a veteran of Indian army;  was the former Commandant of Army War College, Mhow.  Currently, he writes on Ethics,Leadership Strategy and Current International and National issues.

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