US Navy ships are in the Yellow Sea today for exercises with the South Korean Navy. I hope this has been thought out. What will happen if North Korea fires on American vessels? Will the US retaliate? And after that? We certainly cannot be girding up for another war, this one against a country that does indeed have nuclear weapons -- most of which are pointed at the South Korean capital of Seoul and its 10 million residents.
North Korea's leader Kim Jong-il is unpredictable -- possibly even crazy. In addition, that country's military leaders may make decisions on their own, and it's hard to say if that is better or worse. It's also relevant to take note that the South Korean military was already engaged in exercises that pressed right up against the border of the two Koreas, which the North has said provoked their shelling. As one web site points out, this fact has been buried by the American media.
However, the key to this entire situation -- and we are hearing this more and more often these days -- is China. North Korea's only ally, the Chinese government could be quite helpful right now, but it's been hesitant to chasten Pyongyang in the past -- at least publicly. If China were to embrace its growing importance on the world stage by stepping up to play key roles in geopolitical disputes, economic crises and environmental concerns, that would seem to make life easier for everyone, but Beijing continues to work at its own pace.
I saw an interesting statistic last week: In 2009 China used twice as much steel as the US, the European Union and Japan COMBINED. Beijing's economic growth is surging at a level the world has never before seen. China recently became the world's second-largest economy, passing Japan, and China is the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases. If the 1900s were the American Century, this is quickly becoming the Chinese Century.