The passing of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-il, last Saturday reminds us of how dangerous a place the world is. One had hoped the end of the Cold War might have given a peace-dividend of a more lasting nature, but clearly, that is not the case.
Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Islamist terrorist attacks on the United States, Spain and the United Kingdom, musings of nuclear attack from leaders of North Korea and Iran, sabre rattling from Russia and China, and internal conflicts in the Middle East have made the opening decade of the twenty-first century no less than a bloody mess.
Kim Jong-il was not even in his grave when North Korea conducted a missile test, signalling that nation’s commitment to continue its late leader’s policy of threatening to wipe out Seoul, the prosperous South Korean capital, or the Japanese economy, not to mention millions of their people. With some 1.19-million men under arms, North Korea possesses one of the world’s largest standing armies with a massive arsenal of conventional weapons, supplemented by nuclear weapons, while its people are forced to endure a permanent famine.
China Military 2011
Perhaps even more worrying, though, is North Korea’s primary (only?) international sponsor, China. While most in the West focus on the very real threat posed by Islamist extremists, China has poured ever-increasing billions of dollars into its armed forces.
Here’s an excerpt from a story USA Today published last summer:
For two decades China has been adding large numbers of warships, submarines, fighter jets and—more significantly—developing offensive missiles capable of knocking out U.S. stealth aircraft and the biggest U.S. naval ships including aircraft carriers.
At the same time, China has announced that its territorial waters extend hundreds of miles beyond its shores, well into what its neighbors and the United States consider international waters. It has installed more than 1,000 ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan, a democratic island nation and U.S. ally. Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan all have complained to the United States about confrontations on the high seas with China.
Much of China’s new military and naval build-up is in offensive weapons like its first aircraft carrier—and there are unconfirmed reports of China also building two nuclear powered aircraft carriers. Such warships are not generally considered defensive.
Tensions run high in the South China Sea where China and others have unresolved differences.
Few remember that China briefly invaded Vietnam in 1979 with combined casualties of over 60,000. Furthermore, China and India have had disputes over their borders, resulting in three military conflicts: the Sino-Indian War of 1962, the Chola incident in 1967 and the 1987 Sino-Indian skirmish.
Moreover, the relationship between China and Japan is increasingly strained despite their deep economic ties and a doubling of their bilateral trade in the past five years. This has dangerous implications for the United States and the world at large. Eric Calder, writing for Foreign Affairs a few years back, had this to say:
Some liken current Sino-Japanese relations to the Anglo-German rivalry prior to World War I. As with the United Kingdom and Germany a century ago, the contest for regional leadership between China and Japan today is creating new security dilemmas, prompting concerns over Chinese ambitions in Japan and fears of renewed Japanese militarism in China. Both states are adopting confrontational stances, partly because of rising popular involvement in politics and resurgent nationalism exacerbated by revived memories of World War II; mutually beneficial economic dealings alone are not effectively soothing these tensions. Fluid perceptions of power and fear, Thucydides observed, are the classic causes of war. And they are increasingly present in Northeast Asia today.
Canada too could find itself at odds with China. As I wrote in August, China feels entitled to a share of the Arctic’s natural resources and wants to see as much as possible of the region remain international territory. And, if the U.K.’s The Telegraph is correct, Russia plans to “increase naval patrols in the Arctic Ocean to defend its interests against nations such as China seeking a share of the area’s mineral wealth.”
Should Canada be any less concerned than Russia apparently is?
Moreover, the Vancouver Sun reported earlier this year that a “massive” cyber attack was launched against the Canadian government by a foreign government, and that the infiltration of computer systems of two Canadian agencies were also likely perpetrated by a foreign government.
Which “foreign government” might that be? Why, China, of course.
Napoleon Bonaparte once famously said of China, “Let her sleep, for when she wakes, she will shake the world.” Methinks the giant has awakened.
Except video, © 2011 Russell G. Campbell