President Donald Trump met with Chinese President Xi Jinping last week to discuss a variety of issues, the most important being how to deal with North Korea and its worrisome behavior.
Simultaneously, Trump made the decision to attack an airbase in Syria to punish the Assad regime for using outlawed chemical weapons.
The bold decision sent a clear message to North Korea: you could be next; and to China: we want to have a cooperative relationship with you, but we need results soon. If you don’t want to cooperate, we’re willing to take unilateral action.
“I think he’ll get the Chinese attention for sure, as a result of that [the strike],” said retired General Jack Keane. “We’ve had rhetoric for eight years, with passivity, and no action.”
War with North Korea is the last thing Trump wants. What he does want is for China – as North Korea’s biggest ally – to step in and help solve the problem.
As Fox News’ Ely Ratner points out, there are glaring differences between Trump’s recent meetings with the Japanese Prime Minister and with the Chinese President:
“The fact that President Trump went out alone, in sharp contrast to just a few weeks ago when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in Mar-a-Lago, there was a North Korean missile attack. Trump and Abe were negotiating together…then the two of them went out together to the microphones to condemn the attack. In this instance, President Trump saw Xi Jinping back to his hotel and the United States acted alone; not the kind of message the Chinese were hoping for.”
President Xi phoned Trump Wednesday morning to tell him that China is willing to cooperate with the US on ending North Korea’s nuclear program – but that it wants to do so peacefully. The call came just a few hours after Trump tweeted that North Korea was “looking for trouble” and that the US would “solve the problem” with or without Beijing’s help.
“China insists on realizing the denuclearization of the peninsula…and is willing to maintain communication and coordination with the American side over the issue on the peninsula,” said Xi.
As I wrote on Monday, Trump has already ordered a Navy strike group towards the Korean peninsula to “maintain readiness” in anticipation of a possible nuclear test.
China is in full compliance with the UNSC’s February resolution to suspend coal imports from North Korea, but says it will not support any actions that could bring about the collapse of Kim’s regime.