North Korea is playing nuclear brinksmanship at the moment. Its leadership probably doesn’t want war but the constant threat of war is how it get concessions from the West, gains mana, and keeps its people in line. The West is trying to defuse this situation by talking down the prospects of war, while showing its readiness. Into this delicate, high stakes game stumbled John Key.
The leaders of South Korea and the US have carefully avoided saying that they would go to war with North Korea. They’ve said they will respond strongly to any attack, which is envisioned as small and isolated but purposely not spoken of any kind of full-scale war of the kind that distant allies could get involved in. The choice of language is not accidental. South Korea doesn’t want a full-scale war (they’re realists and wouldn’t exchange their own blood and treasury for ending a regime that’s murdering their cousins), nor does the US.
And in comes Key saying ‘if there’s a war, we’ll be in, we’ll fight you, North Korea’.
You could practically hear foreheads being slapped from the Pentagon to Seoul. The last thing the West needs is one of its members saying it would join in a full-on war with North Korea. That kind of provocative talk increases the risk of a miscalculation that could tip the whole Korean peninsula over the edge and into the fire.
Some people are saying ‘well, Key just gave the frank and honest answer’. To which I sigh and say ‘when did frankness and honesty ever have anything to do with diplomacy?’ It’s not in anyone’s interest for people to be talking up their will for a war at this point, even if that will might exist.
Key was surely briefed on this before he went to China. If not by his mates in the spy services, then surely by his media people when they realised that the ‘knuckleheads’ would be itching to put him embarrassingly on the spot when in China. Surely. the line he was told to give was ‘we see no need for conflict on the Korean Peninsula and support all efforts to ease tensions’.
Maybe, he went off script. That’s what I thought when I heard him… it kind of reminded me of this: