The Sankei Shimbun and JAPAN Forward reporter Mizuki Okada interviewed U.S.-China expert Dr. Larry M. Wortzel about Northeast Asian security issues on May 25 in Tokyo. Dr. Wortzel is a Commissioner of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission of the United States Congress. He is a well-known author and expert on East Asian military affairs, and has 35 years of experience in the American Armed Forces. He specializes in the strategies of China’s People’s Liberation Army.
United States President Donald Trump surprised much of the world when he gave formal notice to North Korea that he was canceling the summit between their two countries scheduled for June 12. Dr. Larry M. Wortzel suggested this decision makes China “very happy” because they had always “wanted to get themselves back in the middle.” He explained in the interview that China wants to maintain its influence through serving as a mediator between the U.S. and North Korea.
Wortzel insisted that, “Xi Jinping, the Chinese Communist Party, and the Chinese government were unhappy that the United States and South Korea are making direct approaches to North Korea.” Moreover, he said, China “is happy to be there” in the middle, between the U.S. and North Korea.
One the one hand, according to him, when Japan and South Korea are faced with North Korea’s nuclear or missile threats, it means “U.S. forces are threatened” and the “Chinese like that.”
On the other hand, he said: “I learned last year both in Seoul and in Tokyo, and it’s almost exactly one year ago, that a lot of the North Korean army is not involved in being an army. They’re raising food and they are building road infrastructure. And the Chinese like that. They don’t want to have North Korea completely dependent on them.”
Regarding the nuclear and missile issues that brought the North Korean problem to the fore recently, Wortzel insisted that North Korea has no will to denuclearize itself. His analysis is that Korean Workers’ Party leader Kim Jong-un “feels he needs nuclear weapons as a deterrent.” He added, “I think he understands the concept of deterrence very well.”
On the broader topic of East Asian security, Wortzel said: “I think security policy against China is going to be very tough. I mean, not just because of the mood inside the Trump administration, but because of the mood in Congress and the mood of the American people.” He explained that China continues to militarize disputed features in the South China Sea. This action raises tensions and destabilizes the region. Wortzel’s callout is this: “[China] wants to rewrite international law…. We have to resist, together with other democracies.”
Who Is Dr. Larry M. Wortzel?
Dr. Larry M. Wortzel was reappointed by House Speaker Paul Ryan for a term expiring on December 31, 2018.
Commissioner Wortzel served for 32 years in the United States Armed Forces, three years in the Marine Corps followed by 29 years in the Army. A graduate of the U.S. Army War College, he earned his Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Hawaii-Manoa.
Commissioner Wortzel’s military experience includes seven years in the infantry as well as assignment in signals intelligence collection, human source intelligence collection, counterintelligence, and as a strategist. He served two tours of duty in Beijing, China, as a military attaché and spent 12 years in the Asia-Pacific Region.
He was the former director of the Strategic Studies Institute at the U.S. Army War College. Concurrently, he was professor of Asian studies. He retired from the U.S. Army as a colonel at the end of 1999. After his military retirement, Commissioner Wortzel was director of the Asian Studies Center and vice president for foreign policy and defense studies at The Heritage Foundation.
Commissioner Wortzel has written or edited 10 books and numerous scholarly articles on China and East Asia. His books include Class in China: Stratification in a Classless Society; China’s Military Modernization: International Implications; Dictionary of Contemporary Chinese Military History; and The Dragon Extends its Reach: Chinese Military Power Goes Global.
He and his wife live in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Source: A Military History of China (2012, The University Press of Kentucky)