US lets itself be played by China on North Korea
By Paul Lin 林保華
Taipei Times 2017.5.4
US President Donald Trump is now applying the basketball strategy of man-to-man marking to Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平).
So far, the two have had three telephone conversations and one meeting. The first call was initiated by Xi, the other two by Trump. While Xi might seem to have the upper hand, China’s propaganda machine has said little about the calls, which suggests subterfuge.
The last two calls came after their summit, during which Xi agreed to help the US deal with North Korea, earning praise from Trump, who called him “a very good man.”
This way, Trump put additional pressure on Xi to fulfill his promise as a “good man” should.
During their second confirmed phone call on April 12, several days before North Korea’s “Day of the Sun” and rumors of nuclear tests, Trump asked Xi to help bring Pyongyang to heel. As a result, the North did not conduct any nuclear tests on April 15, although it conducted a failed missile launch the next morning.
During their third confirmed phone conversation on April 20, several days before the founding anniversary of North Korea’s military on Tuesday last week, the two men again discussed the North. On Tuesday last week there were no nuclear tests, only a live-fire drill in Wonsan. That drill echoed Pyongyang’s threat that it could destroy Seoul with its 20,000 pieces of artillery aimed at the city. Saturday last week saw another failed missile test.
These dealings between Trump and Xi suggest that Trump understands the fastest way to control a group of bandits is to control their leader. While Xi is working with the US, the North’s nuclear program will be kept under control. Trump’s dealings with Xi also prove China was lying when it claimed it has no control over the North.
Nevertheless, Pyongyang continues with its missile tests, possibly intentionally, possibly because Trump did not ask it to stop conducting “failed” tests.
The problem is, unlike basketball games, political games have no set time frame. Trump cannot let this go on forever, calling Xi on an almost daily basis. Allowing this to drag on will give China and North Korea endless opportunities to play fast and loose with him, although by doing so they risk provoking him.
China has only called on all sides to “exercise restraint,” despite the fact the North clearly hopes to annex South Korea by force. Beijing’s calls for restraint on the part of South Korea, Japan and the US show it is trying to appease the aggressor.
Russia acted selfishly when it vetoed UN sanctions against North Korea; China, however, was a hypocrite as it tried to benefit from all sides by abstaining.
In an article published by a US think tank, Chinese National People’s Congress Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Fu Ying (傅瑩) warned the US against using force against the North, and proposed that Washington and Pyongyang suspend military drills as a starting point for dialogue.
It is worth remembering that the six-party talks between the two Koreas, the US, Japan, Russia and China failed to check the North’s militarization. During many years of talks, Pyongyang built nuclear weapons and went from conducting short-range to long-range missile tests, before withdrawing from the talks.
The North has been able to develop its military power thanks to economic and military support from China. Although Beijing has called on both the US and North Korea to end their military drills, it is still helping the North expand militarily. China pretends to be fair handed, while scheming with the North against the US.
It is unfortunate that the US is allowing itself to be deceived by China, offsetting all efforts Trump has made toward securing peace and security for the Asia-Pacific region.
Paul Lin is a political commentator.
Translated by Tu Yu-an