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Korea earlier this week, as the nationalist tabloid Global Times asked, “Is [the] China-North Korea friendship treaty outdated?,” and the Party-run People’s Daily called for “responsible actions” on the part of all parties, but especially North Korea, to “ensure peace” on the Korean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.
- Trump’s pick for ambassador to China says he will work with Beijing on North Korea / Washington Post
China announces role as mediator between India and Pakistan on Kashmir / International Business Times
“Announces” is incorrect. The article cites the Global Times, a centrally placed nationalist publication that hints at but does not dictate government policy preferences, as one of its reporters argued on May 1 that “China [is] ready to play a greater role in resolving conflicts in South & Southeast Asia.” Nevertheless, the International Business Times presents a useful view into how India is seeing China, as the reporter writes, “India’s fears that China will meddle in the Kashmir dispute seem to be coming true.”
China’s Silk Road push in Thailand may founder on Mekong River row / Reuters
“This will be the death of the Mekong…you’ll never be able to revive it,” said one campaigner of China’s environmentally disruptive plan to artificially widen the river.
- U.S. fake news feeds information-hungry audience in China / Financial Times (paywall)
- Prisoner escapes from jail in China in stolen truck / SCMP