The tensions between the United States and North Korea have escalated in past few weeks to such an extent that the possibility of World War 3 is looming. Superpowers across the globe are trying to prevent a war, and that has resulted in some unpredictable alliances. Countries who are usually on the opposite sides on most issues are coming together to resolve the situation.
China and U.S. working together is one such example. Historically, both the countries are not strongest of the allies and often try to outsmart each other. However, given that China is the largest trade partner of the hermit nation, it is in the position to negotiate and pressurize North Korea amid the growing tensions.
Trade sanctions have been implemented on North Korea over past few decades resulting in China being the largest trade partner. China considers Pyongyang as an ally, and it continued its trade with the North even after Japan and South Korea curtailed it following the sanctions. This gives China a superior negotiating power. Rex Tillerson recently said at the UN,
“We must all do our share, but China, accounting for 90 percent of North Korean trade, China alone has economic leverage over Pyongyang that is unique, and its role is therefore particularly important.”
North Korea’s threat of launching a nuclear attack on U.S. has forced the Trump administration to seek China’s intervention to de-escalate the situation. China, on the other hand, acting as a responsible nation has actively participated in pressurizing the hermit nation. However, this aid has come at a cost.
After saying angering China could hasten war in North Korea, Trump said China may have hacked us, not Putin. That's how much Putin owns him. pic.twitter.com/AEZdAqxms7
— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) May 1, 2017
China agreed to impose sanctions on North Korea or at least threaten sanctions resulting in the hermit nation backing down. For this help in preventing World War 3, China asked Donald Trump to do a few things, as reported by Japan Times. First China urged Trump not to call them a “currency manipulator,” something that Trump had promised to do soon after taking office.
Donald Trump on April 12, 2017, announced that China was not a currency manipulator and his administration will not label China as a currency manipulator. Trump reasoned that China was not doing it after he took office and hence there was no need to take any action now. Trump’s comment had also seen a fall in dollar and interest rates.
China’s second demand for helping with North Korea is sacking of Pacific Command chief, Harry Harris. Chinese President Xi Jinping made the demand through their ambassador to the United States. Harris is responsible for U.S. security in the Pacific region and is known for his tough policies against North Korea and China, as reported by Korea Times.
Notably, Harry Harris was responsible for dispatching USS Carl Vinson to Korean Peninsula to deter North Korea from taking any hasty actions and as a show of strength. He had also pushed for installation of advanced Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system in South Korea, which China has strongly objected, stating that it undermines their security and the strategic balance in the region.
One other prime reason for China making such a demand is Harry’s stand on the South China Sea. Harris has maintained the U.S. “Freedom of Navigation” in the disputed South China Sea. China’s growing operations in the region have been the source of tension between several countries including Philippines, India, and Vietnam.
China’s demand for sacking of Admiral Harry Harris coincided with the face-to-face visit meeting between Trump and Jinping. It is reported that U.S has likely rejected the demand to sack Harris and may not reconsider it either.
Even though U.S. may not have accepted all the demands this time, such quid-pro-quo puts a serious question on China’s real intentions. If things were to get worse with North Korea, can the Trump administration trust China? One can only hope that it will not come to that, and World War 3 will be averted by direct negotiations between Trump and North Korea.
[Featured Image by Alex Brandon/AP Images]