Lieutenant General Wang Hongguang, former deputy commander of the Nanjing Military Region, has urged his country to mobilize its military in anticipation of an “impending” conflict in the Korean Peninsula.
Dozens of scholars and experts in various fields attended the Global Times Annual Conference held in Beijing this Saturday, where key issues concerning China, its technological development, and foreign policy were discussed.
Chinese General asks to prepare for the North Korean military conflict
During a panel where the situation on the Korean Peninsula was discussed, the former Chinese general told the attendees that “a military conflict on the Korean Peninsula could start at any moment between now and March 2018.”
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“China should be psychologically prepared for a potential Korean war, and the north-east China regions should be mobilized for that. Such mobilization is not to launch a war, but for defensive purposes,” he added. Continuing his address, Wang also warned that in case a war breaks out there’d be a serious risk of nuclear contamination and earthquakes in the Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces.
Clarifying Lt. Gen. Wang’s statement, Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert, told Global Times that defensive mobilization would include deploying anti-missile weapons to border areas that are most likely to be affected by conflict. Mr. Song also added that extensive humanitarian aid will be prepared, as the country is preparing for an influx of a large number of North Korean refugees.
According to the Global Times, Shi Yinhong, director of the Center for American Studies at Renmin University of China, was another speaker warning of the increased possibility of war. Mr. Shi said that the repeated military threats from the U.S. have made the situation “very pressing,” adding that, by completing its nuclear weapons program, North Korea will be able to scare off those who threaten with military strikes.
Cho Hyun, South Korea’s vice foreign minister, issued an urgent plea last week, warning the United Nations Security Council that North Korea was in its “final stages of nuclear weaponization.” Saying that allowing the North to equip a missile with a nuclear warhead will “fundamentally alter the security landscape in the region and beyond,” Mr.Cho has joined the ranks of dozens of South Korean government officials forewarning the UN.
Tillerson scaling back his generous offer to North Korea
Speaking at the Atlantic Council thinktank in Washington last week, Rex Tillerson, the U.S. Secretary of State, said that the North Korean regime did not have to commit to full disarmament before direct diplomacy could take off.
“We are ready to talk anytime North Korea would like to talk. We are ready to have the first meeting without preconditions. Let’s just meet,” Tillerson said. “And then we can begin to lay out a roadmap. It’s not realistic to say we are only going to talk if you come to the table ready to give up your program. They have too much invested in it.”
And while Tillerson’s statement was interpreted as a clear sign of progress and an act of goodwill from the U.S., the Secretary of State’s words carry more importance than the media attributes to them.
A departure from the strong, confident language used by President Trump, and a contrast to his own statement from last week, Tillerson’s words sound more like a teary plea than a call to action.
Tillerson addressed the UN last week, saying that no further talks could occur without a “sustained cessation of North Korea’s threatening behavior” and that North Korea must “earn its way back to the table.” However, despite the decisive nature of his statement, Ja Song Nam, North Korea’s ambassador to the U.N., made remarks suggesting that North Korea has no intention of meeting any of those conditions. As reported by the Independent, Mr. Ja called his nation’s pursuit of nuclear weapons “an inevitable self-defensive measure to defend our sovereignty and rights to existence and development from the U.S. nuclear threat and blackmail.”
As the probability of Pyongyang dialing backs its belligerence decreases each day, Tillerson’s desperate call for talks with North Korea most likely won’t yield any positive results. The increased panic among top military officials in the U.S. has started to show not only in Tillerson’s words but also in the often extemporaneous actions by the U.S. government.
With Tillerson slowly losing his credibility, and Pyongyang becoming more bound and determined in their quest for military domination, North Korea is bound to have an upper hand the imminent discussions about the future of the Korean Peninsula.