The North Korean military is rallying to Kim Jong-Il. Diplomacy is stirring to stop its nuclear test, which may come off this weekend. But China refuses to stop North Korea from testing a nuclear weapon (h/t Austin Bay):

WHILE the rest of the world looks to Beijing to stop North Korea from exploding a nuclear bomb, a leading Chinese analyst says it is too late – China cannot act without doing worse harm to its own interests.

“Basically, our country’s work of persuasion with the (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) in the 12 years that the DPRK developed its nuclear program had been a failure,” writes highly regarded Shen Dingli, of Shanghai’s Fudan University.

That work of “persuasion” never quite got around to Beijing cutting off North Korea’s fuel and food supplies. It never quite got around to any sort of threat and never quite got around to any real cooperation with the US, Japan and South Korea. It never quite got around to being serious.

Beijing seems to find the North Korean nuclear program to be a useful headache. It has already divided the US and South Korea, and kept US interests in the region in check. Along with Iraq and Afghanistan and Iran, NK’s nuclear program is one more thing to tax our leadership and resolve. And by continuing to provide fuel and food, China staves off the inevitable collapse of Kim’s regime, a collapse that would lead to a massive humanitarian crisis that China would have to cope with directly.

And then there’s the usefulness of North Korea going nuclear, helpfully explained by Pyongyang’s “unofficial” spokesman Kim Myong Chol:

The third message is that the nuclear-armed North Korea will be a major boon to China and Russia. Nuclear-armed, the two countries are friendless in case of war with the US. The US has nuclear-armed allies, such as the UK and France. The Americans have a network of military bases around the two countries, while they have none. The presence of a mighty nuclear weapons state in Korea should be most welcome to Russia and China.

The People’s Republic of China has every reason to welcome a nuclear-armed North Korea, whatever it may say in public. The nuclear deterrence of North Korea is a major factor in reducing US military pressure on China on the question of the independence of Taiwan.

The fourth point is that the North Korea government of Kim does not care at all whether Japan goes nuclear, or that South Korea and Australia follow suit. In the first place, those countries are practically nuclear-armed because they are under the nuclear umbrella of the US and house American nuclear bases and because Tokyo’s military spending is 10 times that of Pyongyang’s and Seoul’s defense budget is five times that of Pyongyang’s. It is too obvious that they are capable of acquiring nuclear weapons at short notice.

Read the whole thing. It’s very entertaining. Mr. Kim threatens to incinerate the US with nuclear weapons, and then does what any savvy enemy would do, pressing clippings from our own media into his service. If he worked a little harder he could find plenty of Democrats offering helpful quotes too.

Unfortunately, the part I quoted does contain more than a grain of truth: If Japan has to go nuclear, in the long run it probably will spin out of Washington’s orbit. For Japan, going nuclear would be a signal that it doesn’t believe it can count on our help, and when you stop to think about how all blame is focused on the Bush administration these days (instead of the North Koreans and their hard drive to obtain nukes no matter what), why would Japan conclude anything else? The end of politics stopping at the water’s edge is bound to have very real and dangerous consequences before too long. Japan won’t be the last to conclude that alliances with a divided superpower aren’t worth the paper they’re signed on.

So in the short run, Japan will buy more anti-missile technology from us, but in the long run it will turn its space program into a missile program and revive its once fearsome military. Japan is a superpower in waiting, and a nuclear North Korea would end the waiting.

On the other hand, read between the lines of Mr. Kim’s screed and you can see the signs of weakness. His article is full of the typical North Korean bluster and threats, but also demonstrable lies. North Korea’s missiles don’t work. He says that they do. North Korea is starving, its conventional military reportedly on the verge of collapse. Nuclear weapons are the one thing that might stave off the inevitable death of the regime, or at least (in their minds) keep them safe from us.

Diplomacy isn’t going to stop North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. That’s the bottom line. North Korea sees nukes as its last best hope of survival, while the rest of the world (minus China and possibly Russia) see North Korean nukes as an intolerable threat. I don’t see a peaceful end to this. Either China deals with Kim, or we do. And it doesn’t look like we will.