by Ed TimperlakePosted Jul 10, 2006
As co-author of Showdown: Why China Wants War With the United States, I have argued that the real villain behind last week’s North Korean missile test is Red China. Why? Because the tests were undoubtedly an intelligence windfall for the Communist regime in Beijing.
The foreign policy experts who see the People’s Republic of China as a force for moderation anguished over the inability of the PRC to stop Kim Jong Il’s fireworks from flying over and into the Sea of Japan. Their arguments tend to give the PRC the benefit of the doubt because in their view the PRC’s influence on the “Dear Leader” only goes so far. Hence, their position is that China is sadly ineffectual but should at least get credit for working for stability in the Pacific.I don’t think so.The PRC of today is outpacing 1930s Nazi Germany in building for war. We need to take a hard-eyed view of the PRC’s close relationship with North Korea. China is the problem, not the solution.For us former Reaganites, of course, the North Korean missile tests vindicate President Reagan’s vision for missile defense, which was mockingly called “Star Wars” by Reagan’s critiques. History is proving, again, that President Reagan was a visionary. Once and for all, a stake has been driven through heart of the argument against Missile Defense. Because of the current events in the Pacific, America will become stronger and better defended. Allied relationships will be strengthened, especially with Japan.But what if--independent of the recent North Korean actions--the PRC had already determined that it was inevitable the U.S. position in the Pacific would strengthen on both the military and diplomatic fronts. What would the PRC have gained from North Korea’s long-telegraphed missile tests?The answer is simple: an intelligence bonanza for the PRC.As a result of the tests, the PRC got a free look at U.S. capabilities. The PRC saw which military resources the U.S. committed, which tactical weapons were deployed, (ships, air and land-based systems), which frequencies used (to be jammed in time of war). They also got to see how quickly and accurately we identified and tracked the North Korean missiles.And that’s not all.The Red Chinese also got to see if how well state-of-the-art U.S. intelligence and communications systems operated in a crisis. They could also see if the U.S. is exporting degraded systems. They could see if allied weapon systems were successfully integrated into joint operations.Bottom line: North Korea’s missile barrage was an extraordinary opportunity for the Peoples Liberation Army to capture invaluable information about U.S. and allied military capabilities.It can be argued that the PRC back channeled Kim Jong Il to play a little brinksmanship with his missiles as part of a masterfully executed intelligence operation. The PRC’s hegemonic designs in the Pacific is driving it to prepare for a war with the U.S. There are multiple scenarios that could cause that war to happen, including a conflict on the Korean Peninsula itself, a PRC effort to seize Taiwan or a Sino-Japanese confrontation.U.S. technological superiority is still a significant deterrent to China, and last week’s action by North Korea put that superiority fully on display. The U.S. and its allies did what they thought they had to do under the circumstance. But rest assured, Red China watching and learning.
Mr. Timperlake is the co-author (along with Jed Babbin) of "Showdown: Why China Wants War with the United States". He was director of Mobilization, Planning and Requirements at the Department of Defense for President Reagan.