M. K. Bhadrakumar |
The suspense over the possibility of North Korea conducting another nuclear test has dissipated. Almost exactly as Chinese commentators had advised in recent weeks, North Korea finally decided to be content with a flexing of its muscles through a spectacular military parade that demonstrated its capabilities and power of deterrence against foreign aggression instead of indulging in provocative acts.
Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem? We will see what happens!
This becomes a turning point, in turn, in the US-China relationship. In a nutshell, the Chinese leadership has lived up to US President Donald Trump’s expectations. Astonishingly enough, Trump acknowledged this new reality publicly today with yet another tweet: “Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem? We will see what happens!”
Trump’s National security Advisor HN McMaster was more explicit when he told the ABC today,
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We’re working together with our allies and partners, and with the Chinese leadership, to develop a range of options… And so it’s time for us to undertake all actions we can, short of a military option, to try to resolve this peacefully… And so we’re going to rely on our allies like we always do, but we’re also going to have to rely on Chinese leadership. I mean, North Korea is very vulnerable to pressure from the Chinese. Eighty percent of North Korea’s trade comes from China. All of their energy requirements are fulfilled by China. So in the coming weeks, months, I think there’s a great opportunity for all of us — all of us who are really the threat now of this unpredictable regime — to take action short of armed conflict, so we can avoid the worst.
This level of Sino-American cooperation over the North Korean issue is unprecedented. From McMaster’s words, it appears that the Trump administration is looking for Chinese help to kick start diplomatic negotiations. Of course, that is something China has consistently recommended too. We cannot overlook the reality that Trump has succeeded in encouraging a significant shift in the Chinese stance. Even sections of the American media acknowledge this. Washington Post, which has been viscerally opposed to Trump, has begun admiring him. (WaPo)
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China threatens to cut off its oil supplies
China has virtually threatened to cut off its oil supplies as part of its efforts to pressure the North Koreans to see the light of reason.
It is extraordinary that China has virtually threatened to cut off its oil supplies as part of its efforts to pressure the North Koreans to see the light of reason. In essence, China has shown willingness to cut the North Korean regime adrift unless it moderated its policies with regard to the nuclear tests and developing ballistic missiles. On the other hand, Trump also abandoned the Obama administration’s era of accommodation or ‘strategic patience’ and resorted to a display of ‘smart power’. In the final analysis, Trump’s combined approach – coercive diplomacy plus getting the Chinese on board – worked, as the latest developments testify.
This is bound to have a salutary effect on the overall US-China ties and may find reflected in other areas as well such as the South China Sea or Afghanistan. The Xinhua news agency reported that in a phone conversation with the US Secretary of State today, Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi recalled that the recent Trump-Xi summit in Florida has ‘set a constructive tone, defined the direction and made a plan for the development of bilateral ties’ and that for the next stage of China-US relations, ‘the two sides should make joint efforts, in accordance with the spirit and consensus reached… to strengthen high-level exchanges and dialogues and expand mutually beneficial cooperation’. Yang said that the two countries should ‘manage their differences on the basis of mutual respect and promote greater development of bilateral ties.’ The exceptional call on a Sunday was made by the Chinese side to exchange notes with the Trump administration on the latest North Korean developments. (Xinhua)
Read more: US Secretary of State warns North Korea that military action is ‘option’
U.S & China: Future allies?
By the way, in the ABC interview today, McMaster further disclosed that Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping also have a deal on Syria. This is what McMaster said:
President Xi was courageous in distancing himself from the Russians, isolating really the Russians and the Bolivians.
Well, we’ll see what happens. What we do know is that, in the midst of responding to the mass murder of the Syrian regime, the president (Trump) and the first lady hosted an extraordinarily successful conference, summit, with President Xi and his team. And not only did they establish a very warm relationship, but since that time they’ve worked together on other issues. On North Korea, they worked together. But they worked together as well in connection with the response to the mass murder on the part of the Assad regime in connection with the U.N. vote.
I think President Xi was courageous in distancing himself from the Russians, isolating really the Russians and the Bolivians. And this all occurred on the same day that President Trump hosted the Secretary-General of NATO, representing our wonderful NATO allies. And I think the world saw that, and they saw, well, what club do you want to be in? The Russian-Bolivian club? Or the — in the club with the United States, working together on our mutual interests and the interests of peace, security. And I think it was just a great week of the United States.
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This is a stunning statement indeed. McMaster has virtually claimed that Beijing is willing to distance itself from the Russian policies on Syria in response to Trump’s overture. If there is any element of truth in this claim, we are on to something very big developing in the post-Cold War global alignments. Moscow had better watch out.
M. K. Bhadrakumar has served as a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service for over 29 years, with postings as India’s ambassador to Uzbekistan (1995-1998) and to Turkey (1998-2001). He writes extensively in Indian newspapers, Asia Times and the “Indian Punchline”.