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October 5, 2022

Shifts in the global power triangle (II)

Russian Media was among the first ones who raised questions about what is happening in the global power triangle in relation to the current crisis in the Korean Peninsula. An analysis/interview broadcasted by the Russian channel “radio Svoboda” on April 22, 2017 is significantly entitled “Did China changed Russia with USA?” (author: Iuri Jigalkin). Therefore, even in the title, the author, who questions on this matter two “heavy” experts in international relationships, gives the right importance to the relationships between the three great global powers. His questions are precisely elaborated and designed to identify what’s happening in the “power triangle” outlined in the title: “Are Donald Trump and Xi Jinping ready to improve bilateral relations? Why did Beijing support US statements on North Korea? Did President Trump find China’s weak spot? Did Donald Trump part with Russian illusions? Does Russia write itself down as a pariah?” He finds the questions justifiable, since gestures (including messages on twitter signed by Donald Trump) attesting a certain approach between China and US in the recent period (after the visit of the Chinese President Xi in US, this month) are already public. Among them, the author also cites Beijing’s position related to a resolution of the UN Security Councilon the Korean crisis, deemed to be issued in terms that are unacceptable by Russia. In the analysis made by E. Luttwak, a known expert for his political and military strategy books, questioned by the Russian journalist, US’s new policy toward China is “a serious reversal of the White House, this is a new strategy, but its implementation will depend on the fulfillment of Beijing’s several conditions”. By now – according to the expert -, Beijing had an ambiguous position in the case of North Korean nuclear proliferation , when it signed UN resolutions urging for ban of the efforts in this matter made by Pyongyang, but it actually continued to support the communist regime from here, by delivering indispensable goods. This time, President Trump would have been suggested in his discussions with his Chines counterpart, a direct connection between the situation in the South China Sea, the negative US balance in the bilateral trade, and the crisis in the Korean Peninsula. Besides, an obvious hint to this linkage of the mentioned files is made by some of the twitter messages posted by the US President: “I explained to the President of China that a trade deal with the U.S. will be far better for them if they solve the North Korean problem!” and “North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them!”, both posted on April 11, after the direct talks between the two leaders in US. D. Trump resumed the case on April 16, asking in one of his messages on Twitter: “Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem? We will see what happens!” We don’t have to mention other similar messages sent by the White House these days, in which Trump is actually warning China that if it doesn’t support the resolution of the North Korean crisis, which is possible, considering the mutual economic relationships, US and their allies will do this by themselves. The Russian radio channel also mentions Luttwak’s conclusion, according to which “If this happens, then the US-China relations will change for the better, and this is paradoxical, because, as you know, Donald Trump was betting on improving relations with Russia. However, unlike Beijing, Moscow did not show willingness to cooperate, Putin refused to cooperate”. In this case, we believe that we would be witnessing a new important change in the global power triangle, similar to the one we mentioned as being engaged in February 1972, by the famous “Chinese opening” practiced by President Richard Nixon. And it seems this is the evolution of the events. I a phone conversation between Trump and Xi dated April 24, this year, the Chinese leader “voiced Beijing’s strong opposition to Pyongyang’s nuclear brinkmanship on Monday while also ¬urging the United States to show military restraint as tensions ¬escalate on the Korean peninsula”. The conversation was initiated by Trump, and according to the Chinese news agency, President Xi said that “China resolutely opposes any act that violates resolutions of the United Nations Security Council … and hopes that the parties ¬concerned will exercise restraint and refrain from taking any action that will aggravate tensions on the peninsula”. According to other news, these evolutions in the relationships between China and US are seen with caution by Pyongyang; the communist regime warning about “catastrophic consequences” if Beijing sides with Washington. Besides, Pyongyang didn’t hesitate to proceed to a new (failed) missile launch on April 28, which caused President Trump’s “soaping” on Twitter: “North Korea disrespected the wishes of China & its highly respected President when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!” But this notation implicitly includes in itself enough information on the matter we are dealing with: the global power triangle. Namely the approach between US and China in the North Korean case, at least, is obvious lately and it predicts a near future of surprise developments (Washington knows that China has requested in a comminatory manner the North Korea to refrain from making tests of weapons that are internationally condemnable, and President Xi wasn’t listened, therefore he was treaded without respect), which we can speculate that it could happen only if Pyongyang appreciates that it’s not alone. In the decades old North Korean tradition to survive by making a subtle game between China and USSR/Russia, it’s not hard to speculate on this matter. Related to the summit between the Russian President V. Putin and the Japanese Prime-Minister, Shinzo Abe, on April 27, this year, a Japanese expert sated that, despite the big differences between the two leaders on assessing the current crisis in the Korean Peninsula, Russia and Japan have a potential future which shouldn’t be neglected in its critical point, even if they are secondary players now: “The DPRK issue is now being engaged by US and China and both the role of Japan and Russia now seems rather secondary. But it cannot be ruled out that exit policy from the debacle is also necessary, especially when brinkmanship policy amounts to a critical moment.”

If that’s the case, namely if a geopolitical approach between China and US will be confirmed, then the impact on the international relations will be particularly wide.  Once the North Korean crisis will be solved by the decisive support of Beijing, other geopolitical cooperation cases between US and China – such as the control on the development of the situation on the South China Sea – could be opened, too, and a non-hostile position of Beijing could be considered in other US initiatives with a global impact, in the ensemble of the international relations (the nuclear agreement with Iran, which President Trump deems to be breached “in its spirit” by Teheran, is already subject of discussions). The significant thing for the caliber of the “global power triangle” that we mentioned is that Russia would feel the danger that a geopolitical partnership between China and US would cause on its interest and, consequently, a recalibration of Moscow’s global policy could happen. We’ll see if this will mean a tightening of Moscow’s relationships with one or both poles of the triangle, or on the contrary, we will witness surprise initiatives of Kremlin in Ukraine or Syria or elsewhere in the world. The current international situation is fluid enough to make us be circumspect with our speculations.


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