Multiple western media outlets are reporting an editorial in China’s Global Times as corresponding to official Chinese policy. This is not the case. Official Chinese policy is a position which calls for North Korea to cease its missile tests while simultaneously calling on the United States, South Korea and Japan to refrain from their missile tests and military drills in the region. It is further Chinese policy to request that all sides including both Pyongyang and Washington, engage in dialogue to de-escalate the situation. Russia’s position is the same as China’s.
An editorial is simply an opinion piece and in this case, an author at the Global Times has made a suggestion of what China’s policy ought to be in the near future.
The short editorial is reproduced below in its entirety with the paragraph misleadingly labelled as official Chinese policy by the mainstream media highlighted in bold-font,
“The US and North Korea have both ramped up their threatening rhetoric. The Pentagon has prepared plans for B-1B strategic bombers to make preemptive strikes on North Korea’s missile sites. US Secretary of Defense James Mattis issued an ultimatum to North Korea on Wednesday to “cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and destruction of its people.”
Meanwhile, North Korea issued plans to fire four intermediate-range missiles to land 30-40 kilometers from Guam and claimed it would finalize the plan by mid-August.
Some people in Guam have already expressed panic for the first time after the end of the Cold War. The US has already got the worst of the confrontation with North Korea.
Many people believe the possibility of war is very low. If war really breaks out, the US can hardly reap any strategic harvest and North Korea will face unprecedented risks. North Korea aims to propel the US to negotiate with it, while the US wants to put North Korea in check. Neither can achieve its goal, so they compete to escalate tensions, but neither wants to take the initiative to launch a war.
The real danger is that such a reckless game may lead to miscalculations and a strategic “war.” That is to say, neither Washington nor Pyongyang really wants war, but a war could break out anyway as they do not have the experience of putting such an extreme game under control.
In the near future, it would be highly sensitive if US B-1B fighter jets fly over the Korean Peninsula or North Korea launches missiles in the direction of Guam. Both sides would upgrade their alert to the highest level. The uncertainty in the Korean Peninsula is growing.
Beijing is not able to persuade Washington or Pyongyang to back down at this time. It needs to make clear its stance to all sides and make them understand that when their actions jeopardize China’s interests, China will respond with a firm hand.
China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten US soil first and the US retaliates, China will stay neutral. If the US and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so.
China opposes both nuclear proliferation and war in the Korean Peninsula. It will not encourage any side to stir up military conflict, and will firmly resist any side which wants to change the status quo of the areas where China’s interests are concerned. It is hoped that both Washington and Pyongyang can exercise restraint. The Korean Peninsula is where the strategic interests of all sides converge, and no side should try to be the absolute dominator of the region”.
There is no telling what China’s response would be in the event of a US first strike on North Korea. The editorial is simply one reasonable possibility, but there are of course others.
It is irresponsible to elevate an opinion piece to the level of official government policy, especially when such irresponsible journalism could heighten tensions in a region that is teaming with nuclear weapons.