In my last article (Sticking the arson charge on a couple of patsies) I questioned why North Korea’s nuclear program was attracting such attention from the United States. North Korea is a very poor and backwards country whose bellicosity reflects the regime’s need for an external enemy like the United States to galvanize domestic support. Attacking America and its allies in the region is the last thing North Korea’s leaders would want to do as such an attack would guarantee an American response that would be sure to destroy their lives, their government and the lives of millions of innocent Korean civilians.
However, this month I was made aware of another possible reason for the attention being paid to North Korea and its nuclear program. What if the escalating tensions over Korea are just a smokescreen intended to legitimize an American military buildup in the region aimed at intimidating China?
In 2011, former U.S. President Barack Obama announced a change in U.S. foreign policy that was termed a ‘Pivot to Asia.’ The official thinking was that as China and the emerging countries of South-East Asia gained in economic importance, it made sense to devote more military and diplomatic attention to the region while reducing the attention paid to Europe and the Middle East.
Of course, observers also saw the pivot as a response to the rising economic, political and military power of a resurgent China. Just as the U.S. sought to contain the Soviet Union during the Cold War with a string of encircling alliances and economic agreements, so America today seeks to keep China in check through military alliances with East Asian countries like Japan, South Korea and Taiwan and trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
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