No South China Sea operations as U.S. focuses on North Korea - China politics and current affairs news from May 3, 2017 - SupChina

No South China Sea operations as U.S. focuses on North Korea – China politics and current affairs news from May 3, 2017

In our 100-day review of President Trump’s posture toward China, we noted that though his advisers — and the president himself before his inauguration — had previously pressed for challenging China in the South and East China Seas, Trump “suddenly became muted once assuming office.” Now the New York Times reports (paywall) that the Trump administration has rejected three Navy requests to conduct freedom of navigation operations in the area. The Times notes that Trump has apparently “adopted a more conciliatory air with Beijing as [he] seeks help to rein in Pyongyang,” while “the Pentagon leadership [also] wanted to look carefully at the strategic implications of such excursions on overall national security policy,” especially with regards to North Korea.

On May 2, U.S. and Chinese diplomats gathered in New York to discuss the North Korean problem, Reuters reports. Options on the table include the usual statement of condemnation, a stronger resolution that may also blacklist some individuals and entities, or a more ambitious program of sanctions. Sources told Reuters that it is unclear what level of action China’s government may be willing to take, and a Foreign Ministry spokesman dismissed talk of sanctions as a purely “hypothetical” question on May 3.

Chinese state media, however, went ahead and made some unusual criticism of North Korea earlier this week, as the nationalist tabloid Global Times asked, “Is [the] China-North Korea friendship treaty outdated?,” and the Party-run People’s Daily called for “responsible actions” on the part of all parties, but especially North Korea, to “ensure peace” on the Korean Peninsula. Reuters notes that these two editorials brought unusual criticism from North Korean state media, which accused them of “chopping down the pillar” of the two countries’ relations.

Lucas Niewenhuis

Lucas Niewenhuis is an associate editor at SupChina who helps curate daily news and produce the company's newsletter, app, and website content. Previously, Lucas researched China-Africa relations at the Social Science Research Council and interned at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. He has studied Chinese language and culture in Shanghai and Beijing, and is a graduate of the University of Michigan.