What could go wrong? The AP quotes administration officials as explaining that since a rift has opened between North Korea and patron China the quick-witted Obama administration has sought to widen it.
North Korea’s latest outburst of nuclear and military threats has given the U.S. a rare opportunity to build bridges with China — a potential silver lining to the simmering crisis that could revitalize the Obama administration’s flagging policy pivot to Asia …
President Barack Obama recently called China’s new president, Xi Jinping, as part of an effort to brief the Chinese about American plans to take steps to deter the threats coming from the North, The New York Times reported on its website Friday night.
But the idea may not be entirely original. Failed former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had separately said that a “unique window” had opened up to Chna and proposed the administration act to close the “trust deficit” between China and the United States.
Rudd is best known in Australia for being double-crossed by Julia Gillard and losing his Prime Ministership to a back-room plot. Rudd never saw it coming. Be that as it may, who better to advise on how to close the “trust deficit”? And what better way to close said deficit than to brief China on US military deployments? By explaining to the Chinese just what America’s capabilities are? That will go a long way to reassure Beijing America has no bad intentions.
It’s not as crazy as it sounds.
The Army Times explains that while the recent spate of reinforcements to Korea has grabbed the recent headlines, US forces in Korea have been building up for some time.
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s deployment in the last week of its most advanced fighters, bombers and warships to counter North Korea’s mounting threats has overshadowed its more gradual buildup of forces in the region.
Over the last year, the military has responded to the Obama administration’s “pivot” to Asia as it withdraws troops from Afghanistan and its war in Iraq recedes into history. The rebalancing of forces addresses, in part, the rise of Chinese power in the region. Other changes were made with a clear focus on North Korea.
It would be natural for China to think that Korea is not really about Korea, but about China, a possibility suggested nastily enough by Pravda.
But the Wall Street Journal, however, has another conspiracy theory. It believes the North Korean crisis is about Japan. “Beijing hopes Pyongyang sanctions will pressure the U.S. to rein in its own ‘troublesome’ ally, Tokyo.”
What does Beijing gain from demonstrating goodwill to Washington though? China’s action may be meant to suggest that if it can act tough with North Korea, the U.S. can show a similar attitude toward its biggest treaty ally in Asia-Japan.
The true target of Beijing’s actions then may not be Pyongyang at all, but rather Tokyo. Since the Japanese government nationalized the Senkaku Islands in September, Beijing-which calls the barren rocks Diaoyus-has sought to demonize and isolate its neighbor. It accuses Tokyo of harboring imperial ambitions, nurturing ultranationalist sentiments and endangering regional stability.
The way things will play out in the WSJ scenario is that China will offer to rein in North Korea — after being duly briefed on US moves in the Pacific — and in exchange Obama will lean on Japan to lower the volume on Senkaku and possibly the level of its defense expenditures.
President Obama gets a political boost from this swap of equal value and the crisis is over. But who knows?