China and North Korea both pronounced themselves severely disappointed with the lack of U.S. outreach to North Korea during the Winter Olympics.
Pyongyang, unsurprisingly, used more heated language in its state-run media “editorials” than Beijing.
China’s Global Times celebrated “more intense than expected” interactions between North and South Korea during the Games, praising South Korean President Moon Jae-in for spending so much time with Kim Yong-nam, head of North Korea’s rubber-stamp parliament, and dictator Kim Jong-un’s sister Kim Yo-jong.
The Global Times was bowled over by North Korea’s cheerleading team and orchestra, and the joint Korean women’s ice hockey team. The Chinese paper was considerably less enchanted with surly U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who spent his time in Seoul meeting with North Korean defectors “in an apparent effort to humiliate North Korea.”
The Chinese blamed Pence for holding Moon back from making even more diplomatic inroads with North Korea:
Despite sound engagement at the Winter Olympics, the U.S. is the key to the North Korean nuclear issue and without its approval engagement with the North is unlikely to go far. Hence Moon, in response to Kim Jong-un’s invitation, only said the two Koreas should “create conditions” and strongly emphasized the importance of U.S.-North Korea dialogue.
More worryingly, the U.S.’ blind refusal to engagement will deepen North Korea’s doubts about a military solution. Pyongyang will not yield to Washington’s pressure and will instead show more toughness. The U.S. knows this well, but it’s still playing with fire, acting rather irresponsibly.
The Global Times graciously concedes that Pyongyang might deserve a share of the blame for tensions on the Korean peninsula, what with its mad quest for nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles and belligerent promises to use them against all who oppose the dictatorship, but circles back around to nauseating moral equivalency between the U.S. and North Korea, castigating both for “obstinacy” and “boldness to take chances.”
“To avoid the horrible scenario, Pyongyang and Washington should face up to the reality and return to pragmatic and flexible policies. The two should seize the opportunities of the ongoing Winter Olympics as well as the subsequent Winter Paralympic Games to bring the situation on the peninsula back on a peaceful track,” declared the Chinese government that brought the world to this awful precipice by indulging North Korean barbarism for so many decades.
North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun served up essentially the same critique, except piping hot with America-hatred and devoid of any concession that Pyongyang has ever done anything wrong:
Pence, who is visiting South Korea to attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, is rebuffed and blasted at home and abroad for his anti-DPRK confrontation hysteria unfit for the atmosphere of the Olympics.
Pence let out a torrent of abuse pointing an accusing finger at the others’ event, instead of just sitting to watch it as a guest. His behavior is nothing but an ugly sight being reminded of crazy Trump.
We never sent the high-level delegation to South Korea in order to create the possibility of a dialogue with Americans by meeting them who are not worth human beings.
The “rebuffed and blasted at home” line would suggest North Korea is very well aware of how American mainstream media has reported on the Olympics and the alleged “success” of Kim Yo-jong’s “charm offensive.”
“Pence must know that his frantic acts of abusing the sacred Olympics for confrontational ruckus are as foolish and stupid an act as sweeping the sea with a broom,” Rodong Sinmun colorfully declared.
“If Pence wants to avoid experiencing a hot agony of shame on the stage of the Olympics, he had better stop behaving imprudently and clearly learn about how ardently the compatriots of the north and the south of Korea wish to reunify the country by their concerted efforts and quietly disappear,” the North Korean paper advised.
China’s equivalent of the secretary of state, State Councillor Yang Jiechi, met with President Donald Trump over the weekend and pledged China’s continuing support for tough U.N. sanctions against North Korea, while also calling upon all parties to “make more efforts to reduce tensions and get the talks process re-started,” as Reuters put it.
China is still trying to squeeze its North Korea card into a few more hands of geopolitical poker. Acting aggressively on the South China Sea and Taiwan while chiding the U.S. for not doing enough to negotiate with North Korea is an unsubtle means of expressing China’s price for continued cooperation on the Korean peninsula. Beijing might have grown somewhat exasperated with Pyongyang, but it’s not quite finished with using its vicious client state to extract concessions from the West.