The US is talking tough after North Korea’s recent launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, which can strike part of its mainland.
US President Donald Trump told his Cabinet on Monday his administration will “handle” Pyongyang, stressing that the US can deal with anything.
US media outlet Politico reported Trump may be considering strong economic sanctions on China. The punitive measures could be introduced as early as this week.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Tuesday, “Chinese People’s Army led the ‘anti-US war to support North Korea’ to victory.” China calls the Korean War as such.
He mentioned the war for the first time in seven years.
The timing of his remark is noteworthy.
With Northeast Asian strategic balance shaken by the North’s ICBM provocation, Washington and Beijing seem to be at loggerheads for hegemony.
The missile launch also seems to have pushed the US’ North Korea policy into a period of upheaval.
US State Secretary Rex Tillerson said Tuesday the US does not seek a regime change in North Korea nor an accelerated reunification of the Korean Peninsula.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham relayed his discussion with Trump on a TV program that he has said he will go to war with North Korea if it continues to threaten the US with its nuclear and missile programs.
Public opinions in the US are disquieting.
Former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger suggested Washington make a deal with China about what follows after the collapse of the North Korean regime. That would include a commitment from the US to withdraw most of its troops from the Korean Peninsula after a North Korean collapse.
Jay Leftkowitz, former US special envoy for North Korean human rights, suggested the US should abandon its “One Korea” policy to support a unification of the Korean Peninsula under the leadership of South Korea.
The big picture of the peninsula issue is being seriously discussed.
The problem is South Korea’s voice is not being heard at this critical time to need policy coordination with allies.
President Moon Jae-in has not talked with Trump yet after the ICBM provocation. Trump should have talked with Moon first, as it was a matter involving Korea.
But coordination was made between Washington and Tokyo.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe talked with Trump on the phone for 52 minutes. That was a long time for a phone conversation.
Moon has been on vacation since Monday, the day after presiding over a National Security Council meeting on the missile provocation.
The presidential office said that he was not considering cutting short his vacation to return to work and that he would talk with Trump after his vacation.
Had he talked with Trump about responses, it would have sent a strong message of their alliance, which Pyongyang wants to break.
A head of state needs to go on vacation, too, but it was a good time for a summit talk even on the phone.
Trump is expected to announce measures this week and Moon’s vacation is to end Saturday.
To stress there would no problem even after he leaves for vacation, the presidential office said its emergency response system was running well. But its recent moves seem to point the other way.
It said Moon had been briefed on July 26 that the government was responding well to the signs of a North Korean missile launch. On July 28, however, even amid signs of an imminent ICBM test, it announced a plan to assess the environmental impact of the partly deployed THAAD, effectively suspending its full operation for more than a year. That night, the North launched an ICBM, and Moon immediately ordered its full deployment.
Concerns are mounting that South Korea is being left out of policy coordination with allies regarding its security.
The government should not waste time finding its own leverage to impact the discussion, while reviewing its North Korea policy as well.
And an easygoing attitude should have no place in dealing with security.