At first blush, this might not seem like a very big deal… but it is. It’s a massive shift in foreign policy direction and it signals a political shift within US-Chinese relations.
Earlier today, a Chinese newspaper, the Global Times, published an op-ed that some in the US intelligence community are saying is actually an informal mouthpiece of the Chinese government. The op-ed warns both the North Korean government and the American government about the dangers of ratcheting up the military aggression.
China won’t come to North Korea’s help if it launches missiles threatening U.S. soil and there is retaliation, a state-owned newspaper warned on Friday, but it would intervene if Washington strikes first.
The Global Times newspaper is not an official mouthpiece of the Communist Party, but in this case its editorial probably does reflect government policy and can be considered “semiofficial,” experts said. …
In an editorial, The Global Times said China should make it clear to both sides: “when their actions jeopardize China’s interests, China will respond with a firm hand.”
“China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten U.S. soil first and the U.S. retaliates, China will stay neutral,” it added. “If the U.S. and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so.”
The warning, for both sides, is clear. Whoever strikes first will lose the Chinese as an ally.
Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem for the United States. We have a long history of refusing to resort to force without first being attacked (yes, sometimes the attack is “trumped up” – pardon the pun – but there was always a provocation that led to our response). However, in recent years the talk of “preemptive” strikes have led to certain parts of our government and military embracing the theory that striking first is sometimes morally acceptable.
While the morality of the “preemptive” strike is debatable, the danger of it in this case is not.
If we strike first, Chine WILL defend North Korea…
However, for the first time ever, the Chinese have given the United States explicit permission to defend ourselves (without worry of Chinese intervention) from the North Koreans if Kim Jong-un hits us first.
From the Global Times:
The US and North Korea have both ramped up their threatening rhetoric. The Pentagon has prepared plans for B-1B strategic bombers to make preemptive strikes on North Korea’s missile sites. US Secretary of Defense James Mattis issued an ultimatum to North Korea on Wednesday to “cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and destruction of its people.”
Meanwhile, North Korea issued plans to fire four intermediate-range missiles to land 30-40 kilometers from Guam and claimed it would finalize the plan by mid-August…
In the near future, it would be highly sensitive if US B-1B fighter jets fly over the Korean Peninsula or North Korea launches missiles in the direction of Guam. Both sides would upgrade their alert to the highest level. The uncertainty in the Korean Peninsula is growing.
Beijing is not able to persuade Washington or Pyongyang to back down at this time. It needs to make clear its stance to all sides and make them understand that when their actions jeopardize China’s interests, China will respond with a firm hand.
It was at this point that the Times laid out the Chinese government’s plans for how to proceed based on which side took the next step.
While China issues a warning to the US in the op-ed, that warning is something that has been around for more than half a century – don’t attack North Korea or we’ll defend them.
However, there is a new wrinkle to the Chinese policy. A wrinkle that had been absent until the Trump administration began pressuring Beijing on the North Korea issue.
This op-ed marks the very first time that the Chinese government has publicly told the leaders in North Korea that if they proceed with their provocative actions, the Chinese will remain neutral when the USA and her allies are forced to respond.
This doesn’t mean that the Chinese government is giving President Trump carte blanche in North Korea, but it’s more leeway to defend ourselves and our allies than the Chinese have ever vocalized before.
That’s a big deal.
While the stress of the North Korea situation remains high, the concession from the Chinese offers a glimpse into a future world where tensions between East and West have eased and the world is a freer and safer place.
We could very well be witnessing a turning point in history, and we have the Trump administration’s hard work in China to thank for it.
Oh, by the way… I’m not sure if President Trump read the op-ed this morning… but one of his tweets made it sound like he had.
The President wants North Korea to understand… we’re ready for a fight and now we don’t have to worry about starting WWIII when we defend ourselves.