Latest blog articles
North Korea's nuclear threat: Where do the US and China go from here?
For the Chinese, their proposal perhaps seemed obvious: North Korea would suspend its nuclear and missile tests in return for the United States and South Korea halting their annual joint military exercises. After the mutual displays of good faith, the two sides could reengage in negotiations.
But the idea was quickly shot down in Washington, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson rejected it again last week before visiting Beijing. It became yet another wishful attempt at compromise as the two heavyweights struggle to forge a common strategy over North Korea’s expanding nuclear program.
As tensions escalate on the Korean peninsula, China’s patience with the US is growing thin, says Wu Riqiang, a nuclear expert at Renmin University in Beijing. With the North Korean threat growing – Kim Jong-un just tested a new high-thrust missile engine that analysts said could be used in an intercontinental missile – the question now is where the US and China go from here.
OUT OF PATIENCE
Early in his first term, former President Obama touted an new approach of “strategic patience.” Rather than overreact to North Korea's every bomb and missile test, his administration elected to gradually ratchet up sanctions until the isolated county agreed to negotiate.
But the policy was more akin to “malign neglect” in the eyes of its critics. By the time Mr. Obama left office earlier this year, experts estimated the North had acquired enough plutonium and highly enriched uranium to build 20 to 25 nuclear weapons. It now appears to be closer than ever to developing a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile capable of hitting the continental US.
Few North Korea observers deny the failure of the strategy. On Friday, Secretary of State Tillerson made clear that the Trump administration would take a tougher approach.
“The policy of strategic patience has ended,” Mr. Tillerson said in Seoul after visiting the heavily militarized border between the North and South Korea. “We are exploring a new range of diplomatic, security, and economic measures. All options are on the table."
All options – including pre-emptive military action – except the mutual freeze proposed by the Chinese, that is. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who proposed the confidence building measures that the US rejected, urged the US to take a "cool-headed” approach to the North.
‘A DIFFERENT COURSE’
Tillerson arrived in Beijing Saturday to try to narrow the strategic gap. President Trump tweeted Friday that China had “done little to help” on North Korea, a notion the Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua rejected in a commentary the next day.
“Positive results require effort and good faith from both sides,” the commentary said. “China has never fallen short of offering its fair share. It's all up to Washington now.”
Tillerson and his hosts managed to strike a cooperative tone, at least publicly, during his 24-hour visit, with Tillerson saying the two sides would work together to get North Korea to take “a different course.” And on Sunday, he said the US looked forward to stronger ties with China in his meeting with President Xi Jinping, who responded that “the China-US relationship can only be defined by cooperation and friendship.”
But such cooperation needs careful shaping, says Yang Xiyu, a senior fellow at the China Institute of International Studies.
“The most important thing for the meeting was eliminating the uncertainty in the relationship between China and the US,” he says. “For the next step, if the ‘double suspension’ doesn’t work, China will need to think about new ideas.”
For now, Tillerson said Washington would focus on tightening UN sanctions against North Korea before pursuing military options. Analysts say he likely pressed Chinese leaders to more fully implement them or risk an expansion of the US air defense system in East Asia, known as THAAD, a move China strongly opposes.
Beijing says it’s committed to enforcing economic sanctions. Last month it abruptly halted imports of coal from the North, ending one of Pyongyang's main sources of foreign currency. Still, a recent study by the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington-based research organization, found that China has allowed materials used to make hydrogen bombs to cross the border. Beijing has long been wary of pushing Pyongyang too hard for fear of sparking a regime collapse and refugee crisis.
Zhao Hai, a research fellow at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, says that he wasn’t surprised Tillerson left Beijing without concrete steps on North Korea. He says the real test will come next month when Xi and Trump meet in the US.
“The US is still undergoing a review of its North Korean policy and China is also undergoing a domestic debate,” Professor Zhao says. “Both sides need to clarify their common goals so they can come up with common solutions.”
• Xie Yujuan contributed reporting.
Read this story at csmonitor.com
Become a part of the Monitor community
- Become a Facebook fan!
- Follow us on Twitter!
- Follow us on Google+
- Link up with us!
- Subscribe to our RSS feeds!
Provincial debt seen inching up
Debt owed by provinces and cities is poised to increase steadily in the coming years as the Government will boost its on-lending of foreign loans and reduce budget allocations for projects using official development assistance (ODA) and preferential loans in provinces. In a report sent to the National Assembly Financial and Budgetary Committee last week, the HCMC government said it expects a steady increase in debt owed by cities and provinces, so they need to enhance debt management to avoid… chat_bubble_outline Read More...
Hanoi bars to open until 2am on weekends
VietNamNet Bridge – Hanoi Chairman Nguyen Duc Chung has allowed restaurants and bars in the Old Quarter to stay open until 2am on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, starting from September 1. Some restaurants and bars in Hanoi will be allowed to open until 2am following a recent decision by the Hanoi People's Committee. To stay open late, these places must register with the authorities of Hoan Kiem District, satisfy conditions on safety and security, ensure good sound insulation, and not sell… chat_bubble_outline Read More...
Watermelons crop up on Vietnam's rubber plantations
Hundreds of local farmers are enjoying the fruits of their labor now watermelons have come into season. Over the last three years, a state-owned plantation in the southern province of Binh Phuong has cut down old rubber trees to make room for new ones. While the rubber trees are still young, many local farmers have hired land to grow watermelons. The melons take between 50 and 60 days from planting to harvest, so each family can grow two to three crops each year. After deducting costs, local… chat_bubble_outline Read More...
Marine Le Pen makes headlines by refusing to don veil for a meeting
Related stories Sunni and Shiite Islam: Do you know the difference? Take our quiz. Marine Le Pen is latest French politician embroiled in fraud allegations. First Look Far-right populist Marine Le Pen formally launches bid to make France great again Read this story at csmonitor.comBecome a part of the Monitor communityBecome a Facebook fan!Follow us on Twitter!Follow us on Google+Link up with us!Subscribe to our RSS feeds! chat_bubble_outline Read More...
52 inmates on run after Brazil jailbreak
Sao Paulo (AFP) - Brazilian police were hunting for 52 inmates who broke out of a jail on Tuesday in the latest unrest to hit the country's overcrowded prisons.Inmates set fire to one of the cellblocks before escaping from the Penitentiary Progression Center, a semi-open prison in the town of Bauru, northwest of Sao Paulo, the national prisons authority said.The revolt broke out in protest after a prison guard confiscated a mobile phone from an inmate, it said."The prisoners started a commotion… chat_bubble_outline Read More...