China's anger at North Korea overcomes worry over U.S. stealth flights

Mon Apr 1, 2013 5:09pm EDT
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By Ben Blanchard

BEIJING (Reuters) - A show of force by U.S. stealth jets over the Korean Peninsula after talk of war by Pyongyang has caused only minor concern in China, a measure of Beijing's belief that the North is to blame for the tensions and that hostilities are not imminent.

The presence of U.S. forces in places like South Korea and Japan has long worried Beijing, feeding its fears that it is being surrounded and "contained" by Washington and its allies, especially following the U.S. strategic pivot to Asia.

The flying of B-2 and F-22 stealth jets in joint exercises with South Korea, bringing U.S. military might virtually to China's doorstep, has barely generated a response from Beijing except for a generic call for calm and restraint.

Last month's announcement that the United States would strengthen its anti-missile defenses due to the North's threats also elicited only relatively mild criticism from China.

"All these new actions from the U.S. side are not targeted at China," said Ni Lexiong, a military expert at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.

"There is no possible threat to China."

Another well-connected Chinese military expert, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of discussing Chinese defense policy, said China believed the U.S. presence in Korea acted as a necessary restraint on troublesome Pyongyang, hence the lack of criticism from Beijing.

Chinese internet sites are resounding with criticism not of the United States but of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who is derided as "Fatty Kim" or "Fatty The Third", in reference to his father and grandfather, both previous rulers of the pariah state.   Continued...

A North Korean soldier looks out with binoculars at a outpost along the banks of Yalu River near the North Korean town of Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong, in this March 29, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Jacky Chen/Files