Who is Responsible for Reining in North Korea? Not China, Says Mitch Lerner

July 13, 2017
Prof. Mitch Lerner

Mitchell Lerner, associate professor of history and director of Ohio State’s Institute for Korean Studies, addressed the question of who is responsible for reining in North Korea’s militarism last week in the Washington Post. “This notion that China offers the key to controlling the North reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of Cold War-era history and the relationship between China and North Korea,” says Lerner.

The article begins:
 
"Americans awoke on the Fourth of July to a litany of familiar events: parades, picnics, barbecues and a North Korean missile test. This test, the 11th one of 2017, was particularly troubling because of the missile’s unexpected projected range, which suggested that almost all of Alaska could soon be in danger. President Trump responded with a quick tweet and a familiar request for China to intervene and “end this nonsense once and for all.”
 
The president, though, is not alone in insisting that when it comes to solving the North Korea problem, China is the critical nation. The Obama administration thought so. The Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee agrees, as does the ranking Democrat. And countless others.
 
This notion that China offers the key to controlling the North reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of Cold War-era history and the relationship between China and North Korea. Even worse, it has for decades encouraged U.S. policymakers to point a finger of blame at China, substituting simplistic panaceas for serious policymaking and tough decisions. In doing so, it has allowed U.S. leaders to abdicate their responsibility to address one of the most critical issues of the modern world."