US, South Korea start joint military exercises; China panicking?

As the US and South Korea begin joint military exercises, China appears to be fronting for North Korea by calling for "emergency talks" on the situation.

The question is; what is there to talk about? Without warning or provocation, the North shelled South Korean territory. Any sit-down with Kim would reward that bad behavior because eventually, the North Korean leader wants us to bribe him with goodies - food and fuel for his desperately starving people. If talks were to make peace more likely, then there might be a reason to sit down with the lunatics. But Kim sees talks as we might view going shopping. He pushes the right buttons and we come running, begging him to refrain from acting like a crazy man.

Not this time:

South Korea and the United States on Sunday began joint naval exercises that will include live fire and bombing drills, as hermetic North Korea deployed missiles close to the Yellow Sea and warned that it will turn the region into "a merciless shower of fire" if its territory is violated.

With tensions high in the region, China on Sunday called for an emergency session in December of the parties to the long-suspended six-way talks over North Korea's nuclear program. But the call for new talks, announced in Beijing at an unusual Sunday afternoon press briefing by Chinese nuclear negotiator Wu Dawei, received a chilly response here in Seoul.

China has been under intense pressure to rein in its often erratic ally, North Korea, and Beijing this weekend was engaged in an intense round of diplomacy -- including sending Beijing's top foreign policy official, Dai Bingguo, to Seoul for meetings -- trying to prevent this current crisis from escalating into a full-scale conflict. The partners to the six party talks are China, Japan, Russia, the two Koreas and the United States.

South Korean officials said the exercises, called in response to the North's deadly artillery barrage last week of civilian-inhabited Yeonpyeong Island, began when the USS George Washington aircraft carrier strike group entered the exercise zone, along with South Korean warships. Officials said the live firing would begin later in the day.

China, too, sees value in getting us to the table. They realize it is easier to get us to appease the North than have Beijing have to deal with the troublemaking Kim. Perhaps also, they don't wish us to see how impotent they are when it comes to getting North Korea to act like a normal nation.

We are not threatening North Korea with these naval exercises so the threat of war is not that great - unless Kim has decided otherwise. So Kim will bluster, the Chinese will whine about diplomacy, and we and our South Korean allies will do the only sensible thing; hope for the best but prepare for the worst.