President Trump’s hopes that by ramping up talk of war with North Korea he might force China to ramp up pressure on that country has suffered a blow today in the form of a strongly critical editorial of his whole foreign policy stance in the Chinese English language daily the Global Times.
As I have pointed out on numerous occasions, though the Global Times is nominally an independent newspaper, in reality it was launched under the auspices of the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Central Committee of Communist Party of China. Global Times therefore closely reflects the actual thinking of China’s government. However because it is one step away from the Chinese leadership, Global Times is able to express the Chinese’s leadership’s views in a more forthright way than more ‘official’ media outlets such as the People’s Daily and Xinhua can.
There is no doubt therefore that the latest editorial about Donald Trump’s foreign policy in the Global Times reflects the opinions of China’s leadership, and both its tone and its contents are scathing.
Firstly the editorial strongly criticises the unpredictability and drift towards increasingly belligerent militarism that is become a feature of President Trump’s foreign policy
In less than three months since Trump’s inauguration, the US military has launched at least two strikes that grabbed the world’s attention, the first being the airstrike on a Syrian airfield, and the second being the use of “Mother of All Bombs” in Afghanistan. Trump uses military force more aggressively than Barack Obama. He has demonstrated a certain level of obsession and pride toward US military prowess.
Even for George W. Bush, who fought two wars during his presidency, every attack had to go through lengthy procedures, and starts of war had been widely expected. However, the two recent attacks came rather abruptly. With this frequency and speed in use of force, Trump may go down in history as the “war president.”
The editorial then criticises the use of MOAB (“the Mother of All Bombs”) in Afghanistan, calling it a “vicious weapon”. It contrasts the Trump administration’s decision to drop this bomb with Russia’s decision not to drop its even more powerful bomb – FOAB (“the Father of All Bombs “) – on ISIS in Syria.
“Mother of All Bombs” is a vicious weapon that consumes a large amount of oxygen during explosion. Because of its devastative capability, the actual probability of hurting the civilians is very high. The US in the past has killed and injured civilians in its attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan. The use of “Mother of All Bombs” showed Washington is turning a blind eye on civilian casualties.
This bombing is clearly aimed at testing the weapon in real combat and provides a new gimmick in US military deterrence…..
It has been reported that Russia owns a similar device called the “father of all bombs.” Imagine how the US and the West would react if Russia drops that bomb on the Islamic State during its Syrian airstrikes.
The US seems to enjoy a privilege to do whatever it likes. To the world, this could bring more danger than security.
However by far the most telling comments are those the editorial makes about US sabre rattling against North Korea. It makes crystal clear its view that this sabre rattling – which in its opinion includes the dropping of MOAB on ISIS in Afghanistan – is completely misconceived and counter-productive
North Korea must have felt the shock wave traveling all the way from Afghanistan. It would be nice if the bomb could frighten Pyongyang but its actual impact may just be the opposite.
Pyongyang’s logic in the recent years has been that, without nuclear weapons, what happened to Saddam and Gaddafi would befall its own administration. The “Mother of All Bombs” may once again misguide Pyongyang, leading it to believe that it is crucial to upgrade its explosives.
It’s been widely speculated that North Korea is preparing for its sixth nuclear test and its leader Kim Jong-un is weighing his options. The message sent by the US military is not conducive to helping Pyongyang make a reasonable decision.
In other words far from scaring North Korea into giving up its nuclear weapons programme, all President Trump’s threats are doing is persuade North Korea to pursue its nuclear weapons programme even more vigorously. This is because President Trump’s military actions are showing to the North Koreans the danger the US poses to them.
Though the editorial makes it clear that China strongly disapproves of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme – something China has repeatedly and publicly said – it also shows that the Chinese think President Trump’s entire strategy towards North Korea is completely misconceived.
Needless to say, given the tone of the editorial, whatever hopes President Trump might have had of scaring China into taking a firmer line with North Korea, have been shown up as false. On the contrary, the Chinese – as the editorial makes clear – are barely able to conceal their anger at the reckless and dangerous actions of someone they have clearly come to consider an erratic and unpredictable President.
All of this was completely predictable and I actually wrote about it just a few days ago.
It is to be earnestly hoped that President Trump and his advisers now read the signals correctly and back off. Possibly reports which are circulating in the US that appear to contradict an earlier NBC report about the US preparing a pre-emptive strike to forestall the next North Korean missile or nuclear test are a sign of this. I should say that despite the denials I have little doubt that the NBC report was deliberately planted by the Trump administration to put the frighteners up China and North Korea. Conceivably, having seen how it has failed, Trump and his people are now backing away from it.
Though events hang by a thread, I sincerely hope that is so, and I sincerely hope also that this amateur and inexperienced President learns his lesson and comes to understand that contrary to what the Global Times editorial says, the US does not “enjoy a privilege to do whatever it likes”.