Dou­ble trou­ble with China and North Korea Play­ing the long game on a short field may prove a loser

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

As China goes, so goes North Korea. It’s an ob­vi­ous take­away from the re­cent con­tentious be­hav­ior of the Asian gi­ant that is im­i­tated by its ju­nior part­ner. Satirist Mark Twain once said, “Few things are harder to put up with than the an­noy­ance of a good ex­am­ple.” Based on his thorny deal­ings with the trou­ble­some duo, Pres­i­dent Trump would likely say the same about a bad ex­am­ple.

The Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China is en­gaged in a game of feigns and jabs over trade and hu­man rights with the United States. The task falls on Mr. Trump to meet the ex­tra­or­di­nary chal­lenge of thread­ing the nee­dle be­tween the need for re­spect­ful ne­go­ti­a­tions es­sen­tial to fi­nal­iz­ing a pend­ing trade pact and the ex­pec­ta­tion that he de­liver blunt crit­i­cism of the main­land’s in­tru­sion into Hong Kong’s long­stand­ing au­ton­omy.

Like­wise, the pres­i­dent’s bar­gain­ing skills are taxed to the max by North Korea’s on-again, off-again in­ter­est in trad­ing its nu­clear ar­ma­ments for com­mit­ments of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment that could end the poverty wrought by its self-im­posed iso­la­tion.

A U.S.-China trade agree­ment showed re­newed prom­ise last Thurs­day when Chi­nese Vice Premier Liu He re­port­edly in­vited U.S. Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Robert Lighthizer and Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin to Beijing for a new round of talks re­gard­ing the first phase of the pro­posed pact. So far, U.S. tar­iffs on Chi­nese goods to­tal $550 bil­lion, with more slated to take ef­fect Dec. 15.

It’s likely no co­in­ci­dence that China’s in­vi­ta­tion came just as the U.S. House and Se­nate passed the Hong Kong Hu­man Rights and Democ­racy Act, which would au­tho­rize U.S. eco­nomic sanc­tions against Chi­nese of­fi­cials and link trade re­la­tions with a re­view of China’s hu­man rights record. Bristling at a move viewed as U.S. en­croach­ment, China vowed to re­spond with “strong coun­ter­mea­sures.”

With a deal hang­ing in the bal­ance, Mr. Trump said Fri­day that he may veto the act in or­der to avoid an im­passe at the trade bar­gain­ing ta­ble. “I stand with free­dom, I stand with all of the things that I want to do, but we are also in the process of mak­ing one of the largest trade deals in his­tory,” he told Fox News in a Fri­day in­ter­view.

Watch­ing from his provin­cial re­doubt of Py­ongyang, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has wit­nessed the ne­go­ti­at­ing style em­ployed by his ances­tral cousins. In sim­i­lar fash­ion, the youth­ful leader mod­els Mao Ze­dong in dress and hair­style while al­ter­nately ex­tend­ing an open hand and a clenched fist to­ward Mr. Trump in their mul­ti­year me­di­a­tion over de­nu­cle­ariza­tion.

In a show of good faith, Mr. Kim blew up a nu­clear test site in May 2018, but then shut down a U.S.-North Korean sum­mit in Hanoi ear­lier this year over Mr. Trump’s re­fusal to lift a raft of U.S. sanc­tions.

The U.S. pres­i­dent has re­cently at­tempted to kick-start lan­guish­ing talks, or­der­ing the post­pone­ment of planned U.S.-South Korean mil­i­tary ex­er­cises as a good-will ges­ture. Sens­ing weak­ness from Wash­ing­ton, the North has upped the price for an end to the stale­mate: “The U.S. tries to make a good im­pres­sion as if it con­trib­utes to peace and sta­bil­ity on the Korean Penin­sula, de­scrib­ing the sus­pen­sion as ‘con­sid­er­a­tion for and con­ces­sion’ to some­one,” read a state­ment from the Korean Cen­tral News Agency. “But we de­mand that the U.S. drop out of the drill or stop it once and for all.”

Hurl­ing bold de­mands at the White House demon­strates that Mr. Kim’s tu­to­ri­als in Beijing have yielded a cer­tain mas­tery of the diplo­matic arts but, as English poet Alexan­der Pope ob­served, “A lit­tle learn­ing is a dan­ger­ous thing.”

Mr. Kim should have al­ready un­der­stood the fact that while Mr. Trump has shown him the face of friend­ship, the same U.S. Navy task force that brought him to the bar­gain­ing ta­ble once can do so again.

More­over, the pas­sions of op­pres­sion’s en­e­mies are cur­rently ris­ing, to North Korea’s detri­ment. The par­ents of Otto Warm­bier, a U.S. col­lege stu­dent who died in 2017 fol­low­ing hor­rific mis­treat­ment in a North Korean pri­son for the mis­take of swip­ing a poster, are mar­shal­ing a cam­paign to shut down il­le­gal North Korean busi­nesses around the world in ret­ri­bu­tion for its re­fusal to halt hu­man rights abuses.

Play­ing hard to get with Mr. Trump is clearly in­ten­tional on the part of China and its acolyte North Korea. But they may be play­ing the long game on a short field. When time runs out, lag­gards get left out

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