North Korea. Your Move, China.

By Rep. Steven R. Rothman
February 15, 2016

Sunday, February 8, was another day.

So it meant another North Korean violation of U.N. sanctions against North Korea's launching of any satellites, in view of the potential misuse of such seemingly benign efforts: illegal ballistic missile testing.

That was the thrust (pardon the expression) of the long-anticipated, alleged "launching of a satellite" by North Korea that took place last week.

It turns out that this "satellite," not surprisingly, once in proper space orbit, like several before, happened not to emit any of the kind of signals that satellites give off.

Most military experts believe this latest North Korean launch was, in fact, the U.N.-violating testing of a missile delivery system designed to carry a nuclear warhead. The good news, albeit a short-term one, is that it appears that the lunatic North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, and his crowd, have not yet figured out how to shrink the size of any of their purported nuclear warheads to fit onto a missile.

The bad news, of course, is that this bankrupt and severely undernourished country -- whose evil and totalitarian regime is kept afloat only by the Chinese government -- continues to flaunt a unanimous U.N. Security Council and may well discover how to compact one of its nukes on an operative ballistic missile someday.

Fortunately, U.S. defense officials swear they already have anti-ballistic missiles, in existing proximity to North Korea, that can destroy any ballistic missile carrying any nuclear or non-nuclear payload. They also claim that we are sufficiently ahead, technologically, to possess an effective deterrent well into the 2020s.

Why does China support a government in North Korea that is violating such U.N. resolutions and allowing more than one-third to one-half of that nation's population to be either starving or malnourished, nurtured only on cold war paranoia and absolute obedience to an insane cult leader? The answer appears to be that China is an adherent of Colin Powell's "If you break it, you own it" philosophy of military and diplomatic engagement.

As the U.S. and the world know from the Iraq War that deposed Saddam Hussein, as well as the West's military campaign that removed Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, taking over the operations of another nation, especially from a ruthless, paranoid and murderous dictator who was holding together a desperate and disparate country, is not always easy or advisable, certainly in the short-term.

If China were to arrange for the deposing of the present North Korean oppressor, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of the 25 million North Korean people would race for the Chinese border. This would bring a flood of impoverished, generations-long brainwashed "foreigners" into China, which would threaten the stability of China and its economic progress.

The miracle of China's last 50 years of development has slowed. Its centralized economy is undergoing some not-altogether-smooth transformations, and China's very political system is in transition. Any such tsunami of an influx of North Korean refugees at this time would undoubtedly set China back, in a big way.

And so, in the apparent absence of any durable, non-evil North Korean successor to the evil Kim Jong-un, China is still willing not only to sit by and watch North Korea's horrible torment and oppression of its people, but willing to tacitly support the game of nuclear "chicken" being conducted by the mad ruler of North Korea.

So, here's where the chess game gets even more interesting:

The U.S. has just announced that it is in discussions with South Korea regarding the delivery of the U.S.'s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missiles to South Korea. As you may remember, the THAAD is one of the missile killer systems that we possess to shoot down short, medium and intermediate missiles before they can begin their path down to a target (hitting the missiles even in space). We first deployed THAAD in 2009, and have improved it ever since.

So why haven't we done this earlier with South Korea, which has been facing North Korean ballistic missile test launches over its heads for years? The answer, again, is "China."

The placement of any THAAD system in South Korea would be akin to the Soviets unacceptably (in U.S. minds) putting offensive missiles in Cuba in October 1962, thereby setting off the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Yes, our THAADS are "defensive" weapons. But if China's offensive nuclear weapons strength is seen as diluted or mitigated by "defensive" missile-killing weapons pointed at them from neighboring South Korea, then China's military power and national defense will have been materially weakened.

Thus, in the world of three-dimensional diplomatic chess, the U.S.'s announcement that it will begin to talk to South Korea about THAADs in that country is meant to let the Chinese, as well as the North Koreans, know that South Korea will have its own means to prevent North Korea from delivering on its military threats against South Korea (the U.S. and the West) -- though, unfortunately for China, in a way that threatens China's nuclear deterrent status.

China's shameless inaction regarding North Korea's violations of U.N. sanctions; as well as North Korea's threats and aggression against the world appear to be reaching a critical moment.

Your move, China.

Steven R. Rothman is the former eight-term U.S. congressman from New Jersey's 9th Congressional District. He served on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense and the Foreign Affairs and Judiciary committees. Before Congress, Steve was the Bergen County Surrogate Court Judge, as well as the two-term Mayor of the City of Englewood, NJ, and a practicing attorney. Mr. Rothman lives in Englewood, NJ.