The recent events in North Korea call to mind my post in November 2010 when the US, South Korea and Japan were in such a lather. Much of what I wrote then bears repeating below:
“The present problems are, in part, the fault of both parties. The paranoid and unpredictable regime in the North is highly sensitive to any perceived threat, justified or not, and I believe the joint military exercises of the US/South Korea were unwise. They served no purpose except to provoke and give the North an excuse for hostile action. The North knows full well that the US will not attack them for two reasons: 1) the US cannot afford to engage in another ground war, particularly against this well armed million man army (and 7 million reservists) with nuclear capability; 2) the second reason is China, which would not tolerate the presence of foreign troops above the 38th parallel and on their border. The answer to this conundrum is to come to an agreement with China that would involve the overthrow of the Kim government and reunification of Korea, but guarantee China no foreign troops on the Korean peninsula, i.e. demilitarise the entire peninsula with Korean security being mutually guaranteed by the US and China. China is not interested in instability in North Korea and an influx of refugees that would bring into China but, they want assurance that the US would have no military presence near its border.
The US should accept that the Pacific Ocean is no longer an offshore lake of California and that it belongs as much to China as the US. China is just as sensitive to foreign powers being off its shoreline and on its borders in Korea and Japan as the US would be if there were Chinese troops in Mexico or Canada!”