Here’s the scenario: Washington suddenly makes an unusual move in Asia that China doesn’t like. Beijing’s public response is measured, but it works behind the scenes to undermine US-led diplomacy. After a few months, Beijing cools off and resumes its cooperation.
As a senior UN diplomat described it, his Chinese colleagues have been warming up to the idea of toughening Security Council sanctions on North Korea. After bouncing ideas around with their American counterparts, they suddenly clammed up. Any attempt to work on a sanctions resolution was met with cold silence. “The deployment of THAAD changed the equation for China,” the diplomat explained.
Yet last week, bingo: The UN Security Council unanimously — China included — agreed on what victorious US diplomats described as “the toughest sanctions resolution in history.” (OK, they always say that — but still . . . )
Why the Chinese zigzag? One reason Beijing props up the North Korean regime is fear: If Kim Jong Un’s oppressive regime collapses and the peninsula unites under Seoul’s rule, China will be surrounded by strong pro-American democracies.
True, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan don’t only undermine China’s authoritarian regime by their mere existence. But, in Beijing’s view, they may one day threaten China militarily. American THAADs near China’s borders, though defensive, are a scary step in that direction. Which explains why its diplomats refused, for months after the THAAD announcement, to even contemplate a UN sanctions resolution against North Korea.
On the other hand, Pyongyang’s crazed antics are beyond the pale even for Beijing’s leaders, as anti-American as they may be. So China’s UN hands returned to the negotiation table and, together with American diplomats, forged a sanctions resolution meant to put the fear of god in godless Kim.
[Excerpt of Opinion page in New York Post]