It seems Trump got China to crack down on North Korea – New York Post
Something interesting is happening in China, and perhaps President Trump deserves some credit.
For the first time, the Chinese government appears to have laid down a bottom line with North Korea and is threatening Pyongyang with a response of “unprecedented ferocity” if the government of Kim Jong-un goes ahead with a test of either an intercontinental ballistic missile or a nuclear device.
In an editorial in the semi-official Global Times on April 12, Pyongyang was put on notice that it must rein in its nuclear ambitions, or else China’s oil shipments to North Korea could be “severely limited.” It is extraordinary for China to make this kind of threat.
For more than a decade, as part of its strategy to prop up one of its only allies, China refused to allow the UN Security Council to even consider cutting oil shipments to the North. Beijing’s calculus was that the maintenance of the North Korean regime took precedence over everything. Now Beijing seems to be reconsidering its position.
Perhaps even more significantly, on April 5, the Global Times, which is owned by the People’s Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, laid out what it called China’s “bottom line” on the increasingly tense situation on the Korean Peninsula.
First, the editorial said “the safety and stability” of China’s northeast must be assured. To that end, the editorial continued, no North Korean nuclear fallout can be allowed to “contaminate” the region.
Second, North Korea cannot be allowed to “descend into the kind of turbulence that generates a huge outpouring of refugees,” the editorial said, adding that China will also not allow “a hostile government” in Pyongyang.
It concluded by vowing that Beijing would not tolerate a US military push toward the Yalu River.
China has never before listed in such clear, albeit semi-official, terms what it wants for the Korean Peninsula. It’s never before hinted that it would oppose the formation of a government hostile to Beijing’s interests next door. So how is this related to Trump?
In his first meeting with President Barack Obama before taking office, Trump noted that the outgoing president advised him to focus on North Korea. The reason is that Kim has accelerated his father’s nuclear and missile program and appears to be rushing to affix a nuclear warhead onto an intercontinental ballistic missile.
Once in office, Trump issued a series of tweets demanding that China do more to rein in North Korea. Administration sources have also leaked information vowing to punish a panoply of Chinese companies that have facilitated the North’s busting of UN sanctions.
Meanwhile, the US military sped up its plans to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system in South Korea, despite China’s intense opposition.
But that wasn’t all. When Secretary of State Rex Tillerson traveled to Asia in March, he warned that the United States would consider a preemptive strike on the North if its nuclear program continued unabated. “The policy of strategic patience,” Tillerson announced, “has ended.”
Finally, the North Korean bomb was front and center at the summit between Trump and China’s president, Xi Jinping, on April 6 and 7 at Mar-a-Lago. While eating “the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake” with Xi, Trump told the Chinese president he had ordered US forces to fire missiles at a Syrian air base, following the poison-gas attack on Syrian civilians.
These events appear to have concentrated Chinese minds. The strategy of backing North Korea no matter what is bumping up against the risk of an unpredictable man in the White House.
Following the summit, Xi called Trump and declared that China wanted to see the crisis on the Korean Peninsula solved peacefully. Chinese news reports portrayed Xi as attempting to manage two unpredictable actors — Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un.
A day later, the Global Times noted that the attack on Syria made it impossible to dismiss the possibility of a US strike on North Korea. “Trump’s team apparently is determined to solve the North Korean nuclear problem,” the Global Times observed.
To show that he’s willing to negotiate, Trump stated that if China plays ball in North Korea, the United States will take into account China’s interests when it comes to US-China trade.
To be sure, other factors are combining to prompt a rethink in Beijing. Indeed, both Global Times editorials spoke about the pressures that “Chinese society” is exerting on Beijing’s policy. It’s no exaggeration to say that the Chinese are fed up with Kim. On the Web, they refer to him as “Kim Fatman the Third.”
Still, the pronouncements from Beijing show that Trump’s unpredictability can be an asset in dealing with the Chinese and that his bellicosity can serve a purpose, too.
Special to The Washington Post
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