New tests by North Korea of missiles or atom bombs for an ICBM could bring U.S. strikes on its nuclear facilities and missile sites, igniting an attack on the South.
For China, this crisis, whether it leads to war, a U.S. buildup in the South, or a U.S. withdrawal from Korea, is problematic.
Beijing cannot sit by and let her North Korean ally be bombed, nor can it allow U.S. and South Korean forces to defeat the North, bring down the regime, and unite the peninsula, with U.S. and South Korean soldiers sitting on the Yalu, as they did in 1950 before Mao ordered his Chinese army into Korea.
However, should U.S. forces withdraw from the South, Seoul might build her own nuclear arsenal, followed by Japan. For Tokyo could not live with two Koreas possessing nukes, while she had none.
This could leave China contained by nuclear neighbors: to the north, Russia, to the south, India, to the east, South Korea and Japan. And America offshore.
What this crisis reveals is that China has as great an interest in restraining North Korea as do we.
While the United States cannot back down, it is difficult to reconcile a second Korean war with our America first policy. Which is why some of us have argued for decades that the United States should moves its forces out of South Korea and off the Asian continent.
Events in Asia—Chinese claims to reefs and rocks in the South and East China Seas and North Korea’s menacing her neighbors—are pushing us toward a version of the Nixon Doctrine declared in Guam in 1969 that is consistent with America first:
While we will provide the arms for friends and allies to fight in their own defense in any future wars, henceforth, they will provide the troops.
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