China was willing to vote for stronger U.N. sanctions against its unruly client regime in North Korea, but Chinese media are sending decidedly mixed signals in the wake of the vote. The histrionics in Beijing’s state-managed newspapers seem intended to send a message that China is not prepared to go any further with North Korea.
Prominent among those media organs signaling that Saturday’s vote was as good as it gets is the Communist Party’s Global Times, which accused the United States of displaying “moral arrogance over North Korea” in a Sunday editorial.
“If some Americans continue to believe the nuclear and missile activities of North Korea are due to the lack of external pressure, they’re absurd,” the Global Times declared, reiterating China’s standard response to accusations that it could do more to bring Pyongyang to heel.
The editors paused to recognize that President Donald Trump thanked China and Russia for cooperating on the new U.S. Security Council resolution, but adds that if “Washington continues to make a fuss” about North Korea’s patrons not doing enough to halt its push for nuclear ICBMs, it will be merely “looking for an alibi for its inaction to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula.”
The editorial then dove into the murky depths of Chinese doublethink on North Korea, essentially blaming America and South Korea for creating the North Korean nuclear missile crisis by treating North Korea so shabbily that Pyongyang was justified in seeking nuclear weapons to protect its interests.
“Western opinion often has an unwarranted moral superiority over the non-Western world. The West should be reminded to exercise restraint,” the Global Times lectured. “If it believes it is only North Korea rather than the US and South Korea as well to blame for the nuclear issue, this ill-fitting mindset will not help solve the crisis.”
And yes, of course the editorial griped about American deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile shield in South Korea, saying, “South Korea has not played a constructive role in solving its northern neighbor’s nuclear issue, as shown by its rash and foolish decision to deploy the THAAD anti-missile system on its soil.”
The Global Times wrapped up by encouraging the Trump administration to “seriously consider the ‘dual suspension’ and ‘dual track’ approaches China has proposed” to achieve “peace and coexistence rather than geopolitical dominance.”
“Dual suspension” and “dual track” are roughly synonymous Chinese pet names for the U.S. and South Korea giving Pyongyang everything it wants: suspending joint American-South Korean military exercises in exchange for North Korea halting its nuclear and ICBM tests.
Not coincidentally, the end of U.S.-South Korean military operations would also suit China’s long-term ambitions for the Pacific Rim.
If the U.S. ever agreed to such a proposal, it would inaugurate an era of attack-dog Pyongyang making ever-greater demands, with Beijing solemnly declaring that peace on the peninsula demands acknowledging the legitimacy of North Korean grievances while clucking its tongue at everyone who noticed that North Korean grievances tend to be curiously well-aligned with Chinese strategic ambitions.
Singing from the same hymn book, the Chinese People’s Daily insisted that “sanctions to the greatest possible extent must avoid causing negative impacts to ordinary people and to third countries, and avoid bringing disaster to the country in question’s normal and legal trade and business exchanges with the outside world, people’s normal lives and the humanitarian situation.”
That is another way of signaling that this weekend’s Security Council vote is as far as China intends to go with North Korean sanctions since the more severe measures China could take would certainly cause “negative impacts to ordinary people and to third countries,” foremost among them China.
The South China Morning Post quoted analysts on Sunday who said the new sanctions are tough indeed, but still not enough to make Pyongyang give up on its mad dash for nuclear missiles, especially since the goal is so nearly within reach.
North Korea specialist Sun Xingjie of Jilin University, a university managed by China’s Ministry of Education, said that since North Korea’s economy is “relatively closed,” and work on nuclear missiles “continues to make unprecedented inroads” despite plenty of tough sanctions over the past few decades, the new U.N. sanctions package was unlikely to halt the march to nuclearization.
Another Chinese analyst, Zhang Liangui of the Central Party School, bluntly stated that only the type of sanctions China and Russia will never agree to would halt the North Korean nuclear program, so the United States “might resort to force.” That is a breathtakingly frank analysis from academics in the country currently using its state-controlled media to signal the United States that no stronger measures against Pyongyang will be considered.