Time for China to get tough with North Korea
Alice Wu says that after the Dennis Rodman circus in Pyongyang, China must get tough with North Korea's 'bad boy' Kim Jong-un
Now that Kim Jong-un has a new best friend, in former NBA star Dennis Rodman, the world has a serious problem. This new Rodman-led "Awesomeness Diplomacy" has rocked the world peace life raft. Considering what Rodman personifies, "respect" is not going to be Kim's game plan.
So it would seem that all China's "history" with North Korea, and the previous talk about the two nations being "as close as lips and teeth" aren't going to mean much to Kim. And that's bad news for relations. Make no mistake, North Korea's launch of its latest nuclear test over the Lunar New Year, and the recent flare-ups in the midst of China's leadership transition are taunts.
Some have high hopes that the first woman president south of the 38th parallel and the first Asian at the helm of the UN could help forge a path to peace, but they just seem to be cramping Kim's style.
On top of the fact that North Korea has long had issues about gender, especially those with power (Hillary Rodham Clinton was graced with the North Korean epithet of a "minister in a skirt"), the last thing Kim wants is for a powerful woman like Park Geun-hye - the "Queen of Elections", in fact - to be any sort of role model for North Korean women.
As things stand, Kim and Park aren't going to be sharing soju any time soon. Family history - Park was regarded as South Korea's "first lady" after her mother was killed by a North Korean assassin - will guarantee more drama; the North has already attacked Park's "venomous swish of skirt".
So what about UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon? The fact that he's from South Korea certainly doesn't help. And while Ban may well believe Korean rapper Psy is a new instrument for world peace, he's not going to do much for the Korean Peninsula. There's no Gangnam style in North Korea; Kim seems all too eager to show the world "Jong-un style" instead.
So what we have left are two key players - China and the United States - to deal with this disaster. And it's going to take a lot more than just a phone call from US President Barack Obama to Kim.
It's going to take something extraordinary from China's new president Xi Jinping - something that has never been part of the China-North Korea playbook. It's going to take more than resuming the six-party talks, the possibility of which looks bleaker by the minute. And it's going to take stronger language than the alleged request by Xi's predecessor for North Korea to "refrain" from misbehaving.
Desperate times may call for desperate measures. And if Rodman can find a place for himself in this geopolitical mess, then maybe options written off as unlikely before may just be possible now: from a re-engineered sunshine policy 2.0 put together by China, to rebuking Kim by inflicting real pain as only its largest trading partner, food and energy provider can do, and even a Chinese military presence.
Any chance of maintaining the status quo is going to require a Xi-led China that doesn't refrain from punching more heavily so that North Korea, or any other Rodman-inspired bad boy, thinks twice before acting up in places that are too close for comfort.
Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA