In the eyes of many Americans, China bears a huge responsibility for the North Korea crisis for failing to rein its aggressive and volatile ally in Pyongyang.
But in Beijing, the story is told very differently. Here, a large slice of the blame goes to Washington for its consistently hostile attitude toward North Korea, which in China’s view has only encouraged the regime to invest in and accelerate its nuclear weapons program.
China’s narrative about U.S. recklessness was reinforced this week when President Trump threatened to respond to further threats from North Korea by unleashing “fire and fury like the world has never seen,” and Pyongyang responded by threatening to strike the U.S. territory of Guam in the Western Pacific with ballistic missiles.
It gave China the perfect platform to project itself as the voice of reason: especially as it had just agreed to join the world in stiffening sanctions against the North Korean regime.
“China is disappointed,” said Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University of China in Beijing. “China has just made a compromise, but the U.S. president is messing things up.”
In an editorial Tuesday, the state-run China Daily said that instead of “hurling threats,” the governments of the United States and North Korea should talk.
“Over time, this mutual finger-pointing has pulled both into a spiral of escalating distrust and hostility, which is the biggest obstacle to resolving the crisis,” it wrote.
“The U.S. approach to the standoff has been counterproductive because it has simply escalated the threat from Pyongyang’s nuclear/missile programs.”
As Euan Graham at the Lowy Institute in Sydney explained, China’s position has not changed. “It is still the default: It’s not our problem,” he said.
That shifting of blame between Washington and Beijing is obviously not helpful in finding a solution to this escalating crisis, experts said.
But it is far from clear that China has any answers, apart from hoping that a war of words does not escalate into an actual war.
SOURCE: Simon Denyer
The Washington Post