China slooowly turns the screws on Kim Jong-un

WaPo

For the first time, the Chinese government appears to have laid down a bottom-line with North Korea and is threatening Pyongyang with a response of “unprecedented ferocity” if the government of Kim Jong Un goes ahead with a test of either an intercontinental ballistic missile or a nuclear device. North Korea will celebrate the 105th anniversary of the birth of its founder, Kim Il Sung, on Saturday, and some type of military show of force is expected.

In an editorial in the semi-official Global Times on Wednesday, Pyongyang was put on notice that it must rein in its nuclear ambitions, or else China’s oil shipments to North Korea could be “severely limited.” It is extraordinary for China to make this kind of threat. For more than a decade, as part of its strategy to prop up one of its only allies, China refused to allow the U.N. Security Council to even consider cutting oil shipments to North Korea. Beijing’s calculus was that the maintenance of the North Korean regime took precedence over everything. Now Beijing seems to be reconsidering its position.

Reuters

A fleet of North Korean cargo ships is heading home to the port of Nampo, the majority of it fully laden, after China ordered its trading companies to return coal from the isolated country, shipping data shows.

Following repeated missile tests that drew international criticism, China banned all imports of North Korean coal on Feb. 26, cutting off the country’s most important export product.

What role did Trump play in this? From the WaPo article above.

Something interesting is happening in China and perhaps President Trump deserves some credit….

These events, culminating with Trump’s strike on Syria, appear to have concentrated Chinese minds. The strategy of backing North Korea no matter what is bumping up against the risk of an unpredictable man in the White House.

An article in The Atlantic, How the Syria Strike Flipped the U.S.-Russia Power Dynamic, also sheds light on this.

“We have to figure out what this country’s strategy is,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on a political talk show on TVRain, an independent Russian channel, just hours after Tillerson touched down in Moscow, and hours before meetings were set to begin. “No one understands it right now. If you do, share your appraisal with us,” she said, flustered, to us journalists interviewing her. “We don’t understand what they’re going to do in Syria, and not only there. No one understands what they’re going to do in the Middle East, which is a very complicated region. … No one understands what they’re going to do with Iran, no one understands what they’re going to do with Afghanistan. Excuse me, and I still haven’t said anything about Iraq.”

It seems nobody has any idea what Trump is going to do. That is better than Obama, who in 2012 told the outgoing Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, “This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.” Talk about showing your hand. Perhaps it is better than, “Let me be clear… I am not bluffing.”

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