The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 28, 2010)
N. Korea a ticking bomb China must help defuse
米韓軍事演習 中国も「北」抑止の責任がある(11月27日付・読売社説)

South Korea and the United States plan to hold joint military exercises in the Yellow Sea, west of the Korean Peninsula, for four days beginning Sunday. The USS George Washington, a Japan-based nuclear-powered aircraft carrier of the U.S. Navy, also will take part in the exercises.

The recent artillery shelling by North Korea of Yeonpyeong Island, South Korea, killed four people and damaged military facilities and private homes. North Korea does not appear hesitant to launch a second or third round of attacks.

The planned joint military exercises by U.S. and South Korean forces under such circumstances are said to be aimed at deterring further military provocation by North Korea.

However, the target of these efforts is a nation whose actions are hard to predict by the standards of common sense. The military exercises will be effective to some extent, but nations concerned must not lower their guard. In fact, North Korea shelled the island as if to ridicule the joint U.S.-South Korean drills conducted twice after the sinking by North Korea of a South Korean patrol ship.

Japan must closely watch, with a strong sense of caution, how North Korea will act, a factor that will determine the degree to which tensions grow on the Korean Peninsula. It is a matter of course that Prime Minister Naoto Kan ordered Cabinet members to stay in Tokyo during the joint military exercises so they could quickly respond in the event of a contingency.

Succession-linked aggression

North Korea is undergoing a time of instability as its leader Kim Jong Il is transferring his power to his young son, Kim Jong Un. With the naming of the heir apparent to the key post of vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, there had been concerns that Pyongyang would rush to reckless adventurism in an attempt to show off the son's credentials.

Such anxiety became reality as North Korea launched its first attack on South Korean soil since the armistice of the Korean War.

The international community must not allow North Korea to engage in any further reckless behavior.

Japan, the United States and South Korea need to further strengthen trilateral cooperation to head off North Korea's threatened mass production and proliferation of nuclear weapons.

China, which has close relations with North Korea, expressed strong opposition to the participation of the U.S aircraft carrier in joint military exercises that South Korea and the United States had conducted earlier. Beijing thus signaled it does not intend to allow U.S. forces to act freely in waters in its vicinity.

On Friday night, a deputy director general of the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Information Department issued a statement that China "opposes any party taking any military acts in its exclusive economic zone without permission."

Beijing's unhelpful stance

China is not in step with Japan, the United States and South Korea, which are pressuring North Korea to abandon its nuclear aspirations, but rather sides with Pyongyang by backing its hereditary regime, now heading for its third generation, through increased economic assistance. China likely calculates that the collapse of the current regime in the neighboring nation would seriously affect its own stability.

But it is North Korea that is threatening the peace and stability of the region. In our view, China's indulgence of North Korea has emboldened Pyongyang to the extent seen in recent developments.

If China tacitly approves North Korea's status quo, the degree of instability in the region will only grow. China must be well aware of the reality that a time bomb is ticking.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 27, 2010)
(2010年11月27日01時40分  読売新聞)