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Donald Trump puts on a show for US Senators–China is not amused

North Korean soldiers carry flags and a photo of late leader Kim Il Sung as they march across Kim Il Sung Square during a military parade on Saturday, April 15, 2017, in Pyongyang, North Korea to celebrate the 105th birth anniversary of Kim Il Sung, the country's late founder and grandfather of current ruler Kim Jong Un. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

The entire US Senate has been to the White House for a classified briefing on the situation in North Korea.

Although none of the parties present are legally allowed to disclose the specific details of what was said, an important factor in judging the nature of the meeting can be derived from reports on the meeting’s length.

The meeting was said to last for 14 minutes. By contrast, the journey from the US Capitol to the White House takes slightly longer.

In my own experience, very little of substance can be said in under 15 minutes at a formal meeting. This is especially true in respect of a packed meeting room of over 100 people. The bog-standard ‘hello how are you, this is a very serious matter’, would itself take about 2 minutes or so, leaving a mere 12 minutes for substance at best.

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy from Connecticut did say that the meeting contained “no revelation”, but was instead a chance for the Trump administration to demonstrate their seriousness over the issue before law makers.

Without wanting to be presumptuous, this sounds like coded language for a grandstanding exercise. Not content to play the role of Apprentice war-hawk (so to speak), it seems that Trump now wants to act the part in front of Senators as well as in front of the cameras.

In this sense, the meeting can be seen as an attempt by Donald Trump to demonstrate his power in front of domestic politicians, rather than a substantive meeting that many wrongly suspected would result in a request for a formal declaration of war or some sort of authorisation of the use of force.

It seems less likely that the meeting is a prelude to war, than it is a continuation of escalating tensions between Washington and Pyongyang. Beijing’s increased frustration with the US approach to North Korea would appear to have fallen on deaf ears.

It seems that whatever restraint Trump may be feeling is currently being  hidden from not only the US Senate but also from China. As a result China is taking no chances and has put its own troops on high alert.

North Korea was a non-issue, but through a combination of hubris and poor long-term strategic thinking, the Trump administration may have awoken a sleeping conflict. Assuming Trump is only doing this for show, he may not realise that he is not the only one authoring the script.

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