While the TSA continues to scan and pat looking for underwear bombs, trouble is brewing between North and South Korea. While there have been various incidents in the past, the most recent events are matters of grave concern. After all, North Korea is not just a few terrorists dreaming about getting an underwear bomb past the TSA. South Korea has a real military and even nuclear weapons. Plus a leadership that often seems to somewhat north of sanity.
Of course, shooting incidents along such borders do occur without escalating to actual war. Given that there will be a change of leadership soon, North Korea might be playing a violent form of political maneuvering to make some sort of point. Or perhaps this is yet another attempt to gain some leverage in negotiations (“do what we want or we will do crazy things”).
While North Korea is a smaller player than China (or Japan) it has the potential to create a great deal of chaos. While China and North Korea are not the best of friends, China has an established history of sending troops to aid North Korea (we killed a lot of Chinese in the Korean War). Also, China has a clear interest in keeping Korea divided and the United States as far away as possible. Of course, China also has an interest in not having a war break out nearby. China almost certainly does not want to be engaged in a shooting war with the United States. While this is a remote possibility at this time, the United States will fight to defend South Korea and these operations could result in incidents with China.
From a rational standpoint, it makes sense for America and China to cooperate to prevent a war from starting. While China does benefit from North Korea being an enemy of the United States, China benefits far more from being on decent terms with the United States and there not being a shooting war in the region.
It makes good sense to work at getting China to see that having a stable and less crazy North Korea is in its best interest. But, as noted above, a divided Korea is in the interest of China (at least relative to a unified Korea that is allied with America). As such, China will probably be willing to tolerate North Korea’s actions. Hopefully, this will not encourage North Korea to start up the shooting war in earnest.