【英语中国】朝鲜核试验可能成为中国的噩梦 DJ North Korea Holds Key to a China Nightmare

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2014-5-6 21:14

小艾摘要: Andrew BrowneWhile a territorial dispute threatens to drag China and Japan into conflict, a separate, slow-motion crisis building on the Korean peninsula could further inflame their rivalry. Evidence ...
DJ North Korea Holds Key to a China Nightmare
Andrew Browne

While a territorial dispute threatens to drag China and Japan into conflict, a separate, slow-motion crisis building on the Korean peninsula could further inflame their rivalry.

Evidence North Korea is about to pull the trigger on its fourth nuclear test underline that the North is marching determinedly, one step at a time, toward the day when it can target any city in the Asia Pacific--and potentially large population centers in the U.S.--with nuclear attack.

South Korea's Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se last month called the fourth test a potential 'game-changer.'

True, a fourth test will add pressure on the U.S. to bolster its missile defenses in the region--and it could bring South Korea and Japan closer to contemplating their own nuclear deterrents, separate from the U.S.

This is China's nightmare: a nuclear arms race on its doorstep, and one that adds muscle to its rival Japan as the two wrangle over a set of islets in the East China Sea.

But will China's leaders act? 'They are looking at North Korea increasingly as a strategic liability rather than an asset,' says a senior South Korean Foreign Ministry official.

Beijing, he says, is alarmed at North Korea's direction under Kim Jong Un, a novice dictator with a short-back-and-sides hairdo who has shown the world his ruthless side by executing his own uncle.

Yet it would be a huge leap for Beijing to actually abandon one of its few real friends in the world.

No other country has more influence on North Korean behavior: Without Chinese food and oil, the North Korean economy might collapse. But that's likely not an outcome Beijing desires, even though the execution in December of Jang Song Thaek robbed Beijing of one of its best friends in Pyongyang. China still values North Korea as a buffer against U.S. forces stationed in South Korea, and it fears that a messy implosion of a nuclear-armed regime could spill chaos over its borders.

In the end, the demise of a socialist ally may be too unnerving a prospect for the Chinese Communist Party, which frets about its own mortality.

And those calculations are what may embolden Pyongyang to keep going with its nuclear tests.

'They know that China will not go beyond strong rhetoric,' says Chun Yung-woo, a former national-security adviser to the South Korean president who was speaking at the recent Asan Plenum in Seoul that brings together some of the world's top strategic thinkers on Asia.

North Korea likely possesses a handful of crude nuclear bombs. A report from the think tank 38 North, affiliated with Johns Hopkins University, says North Korea conducted at least one engine test of what is likely a road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile in late March or early April.

Once Pyongyang manages to miniaturize a nuclear device to sit on top of a rocket, half the planet's economy in the Asia Pacific and more than half of its people will be at the mercy of Mr. Kim.

One comforting thought is that North Korea may be years away from acquiring that capability. And even if Mr. Kim is eventually able to deliver a nuclear bomb accurately, he likely won't because he knows that his recalcitrant nation instantly would be reduced to ashes. In other words, he'll choose regime survival over suicide.

Still, none of the carrot-and-stick tactics adopted so far to stop Mr. Kim have worked.

Over the years, North Korea and its immediate neighbors, along with the U.S., have huddled periodically in so-called 'six-party talks' to try to find a way around the impasse. Among other inducements to get Pyongyang to change course have been the prospect of security guarantees, support to develop a peaceful nuclear energy program, and even the possibility of a U.S. presidential visit.

But those talks are now on ice. From Pyongyang's perspective, nuclear weapons are its ultimate protection against attack aimed at regime change; it has taken to calling them a 'treasured sword.'

The U.N. has imposed stern sanctions on North Korea, and the U.S. applies additional unilateral ones.

Yet sanctions so far have had only limited impact on a country that operates on the outlaw margins of the international economy, relying for hard currency on the exports of arms, narcotics and fake bank notes. By comparison, Iran is more integrated into the global economy and feels the punishing effects of sanctions more keenly. Life in Pyongyang, in fact, may even be improving.
Recent visitors report more taxis cruising the streets and well-stocked shops.

If North Korea goes ahead with a fourth test, as seems inevitable, more sanctions will follow, possibly targeting North Korean financial flows as well as Kim family money, if it can be identified. There's a chance that Mr. Kim might flinch if his lavish lifestyle was threatened, and he could no longer buy the loyalty of Pyongyang's elites, or fund his military fantasies.

Of course, it's always possible the regime may collapse. It has to be assumed that many senior officials fear for their lives after the execution of Mr. Jang, which has exposed cracks in a government that once appeared monolithic.

But don't count on an uprising against Mr. Kim who has been surprisingly efficient at consolidating his control over the military since taking over as leader after his father, Kim Jong Il, died in December 2011.

'We'll have to live with him whether we like him or not,' says Mr. Chun, the former national-security adviser, who calls Mr. Kim 'more reckless, more ruthless and more dangerous than his father.'

Reuters
Andrew Browne

在领土争端可能将中国和日本拖入冲突之际,另一个在朝鲜半岛缓慢酝酿的危机或许会进一步加剧两国之间的对抗。

有迹象显示朝鲜即将进行第四次核试验,这表明朝鲜正在坚定地、一步步地向其目标迈进,这一目标就是:朝鲜有一天能向亚太地区的任何城市、甚至美国的大城市发动核袭击。

韩国外交部长尹炳世(Yun Byung-se)上月表示,朝鲜的第四次核试验可能成为改变当前局势的事件。

的确,若朝鲜进行第四次核试验,将增加美国在该地区加强导弹防御系统的压力,而且可能促使韩国和日本更接近于考虑发展自己的核威慑力量,而不是完全依赖美国。

这将成为中国的噩梦:一场在自家门口的核军备竞赛,而且在中日两国因东中国海(中国称东海)一系列岛屿陷入争端之际,该地区的核军备竞赛将增强日本的军事实力。

但中国领导人会采取行动吗?韩国外交部一位高级官员表示,中国领导人现在越来越把朝鲜视为一个战略负担,而不是战略资产。

该官员称,北京正在对金正恩领导下的朝鲜的动向保持警惕。这位留着脑后和两侧剃短发型的朝鲜新独裁者处决了自己的亲姑父,向世人展示了他残忍的一面。

但北京真的要抛弃朝鲜这个中国在世界上为数不多的真朋友,或许还需要跨出很大的一步。

世界上没有第二个国家对朝鲜所做行为的影响超过中国:如果不是中国不向朝鲜提供食物和石油,朝鲜经济可能会崩溃。但北京或许并不希望看到朝鲜经济崩溃,尽管朝鲜在去年12月初处决张成泽(Jang Song Thaek)使中国政府失去了一个老朋友。中国仍将朝鲜视为针对驻韩美军的一个缓冲器,而且中国担心拥有核武器的朝鲜如果发生内乱,可能导致由此引发的混乱局面波及中国。

到最后,对于担心自身存亡的中国共产党来说,失去一个社会主义阵营的盟友可能是一件非常令人担忧的事。

中国在朝鲜问题上的种种顾虑可能会促使朝鲜更加大胆地继续推进核试验。

曾担任韩国总统国家安全顾问的千英宇近日在首尔召开的峨山论坛(Asan Plenum)上发表讲话时称,朝鲜明白中国除了发表一些强烈的言辞外不会做什么。该论坛的与会者是全球顶尖的亚洲战略问题思想家。

朝鲜可能拥有少量粗制核弹。约翰•霍普金斯大学(Johns Hopkins University)附属的智库38 North发布的一份报告称,朝鲜似乎已经在3月底或4月初进行了至少一次陆基机动洲际弹道导弹引擎测试。

一旦朝鲜成功实现核装置的小型化,并且能用火箭搭载核装置,那么占全球规模一半的亚太地区经济体及其超过半数的人口都将受到金正恩的威胁。

不过令人感到安慰的是,朝鲜距离拥有这种能力可能还有好些年的时间。即使金正恩最终能够精确发射核弹,他可能也不会这么做,因为他知道,这么做会让他那执拗的国家立即化为灰烬。换句话说,他会选择让整个政体存活下来,而不是自杀。

尽管如此,迄今为止为阻止金正恩发展核武器而采取的各种软硬兼施的策略都没有起到效果。

多年以来,美国和朝鲜及其近邻会定期举行所谓的“六方会谈”,以期找到打破僵局的方法。为使平壤改变路线而给出的诱惑包括提供安全保障、对和平利用核能的项目提供支持,甚至包括美国总统访问朝鲜的可能性。

但是“六方会谈”目前处于搁置状态。从平壤的角度来说,要防御旨在改变朝鲜政体的攻击,核武器就是最终的手段。朝方已将核武器称为“一把宝剑”。

联合国已经对朝鲜进行了严厉制裁,美国则附加了对朝鲜的单边制裁。

但制裁措施到目前为止对朝鲜的影响有限。朝鲜游走在国际经济的非法边缘地带,依靠出口武器、毒品和假币获得的硬通货。相比之下,伊朗与全球经济的融合程度更高,更强烈地感受到制裁措施的影响。事实上,平壤的生活可能正在改善。最近到访平壤的人说,有更多出租车穿行在街头,商店里摆满了商品。

如果朝鲜继续进行第四次核试验(似乎是不可避免的事),将会受到更多制裁,制裁措施可能针对朝鲜的资金流以及能认定的金氏家族资金。如果金正恩奢华的生活方式受到威胁,而且他无法再用金钱让平壤精英阶层保持忠诚,也不能为他的军事幻想提供资金,那么他有可能让步。

当然,朝鲜政权倒台的可能性始终存在。目前的猜测是,在张成泽被处决后,许多高层官员都在担心自己的性命。处决张成泽让一度表面看似团结的朝鲜政府暴露出裂痕。

但不要指望会有人起来反抗金正恩。金正恩在其父金正日于2011年12月去世后,成为了朝鲜领导人,此后,他在巩固对军队的控制方面展现出惊人的能力。

千英宇说,无论喜不喜欢金正恩,都要接受他是朝鲜领导人的现实。千英宇认为金正恩比他父亲更不计后果,更残忍,更危险。

(本文版权归道琼斯公司所有,未经许可不得翻译或转载。)

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