China has now drawn a line in the sand amid escalating tensions between the United States and North Korea, threatening to “prevent” America from overthrowing Kim Jong Un’s dictatorship.
“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,” reads the Chinese state-owned newspaper Global Times, “China will prevent them from doing so.”
The statement is about as close to a declaration of war as one can make, though the words also reiterated a desire for neutrality, not seeking to take any sides, adding:
“China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten US soil first and the US retaliates, China will stay neutral.”
Despite the warnings, President Trump has maintained a consistent pattern of bravado, beginning with his “fire and fury” statement on Wednesday:
President Trump vows America will respond to North Korean threats with "fire & fury" in a warning to the rogue nation pic.twitter.com/UaE2rPkZ6f
— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) August 9, 2017
To his retweet of the U.S. Pacific Command Twitter account on Thursday, informing the public that they are standing by in Guam:
— U.S. Pacific Command (@PacificCommand) August 11, 2017
To his “locked and loaded” tweet on Friday:
Military solutions are now fully in place,locked and loaded,should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 11, 2017
China’s apparent hopes for neutrality, however, may be entirely self-interested, since the continued existence of North Korea provides helpful geopolitical advantages.
According to the Daily Mail:
“China has long worried that any conflict on the Korean peninsula, or a repeat of the 1950-53 Korean war, could unleash a wave of destabilizing refugees into its northeast, and could end up with a reunified county allied with the United States.
“North Korea is a useful buffer state for China between it and U.S. forces based in South Korea, and also across the sea in Japan.
“The Global Times said China will ‘firmly resist any side which wants to change the status quo of the areas where China’s interests are concerned.'”
On Monday, Beijing began “large-scale” military drills involving countless aircraft, tanks, and submarines—all just months since a massive relocation of 150,000 troops towards its border with Pyongyang.
China’s hopes to remain neutral, however, have not gone over well with President Trump, who in late July condemned the nation:
I am very disappointed in China. Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 29, 2017