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America Must Choose Between a Trade War or a North Korea Deal

June 28, 2018 Topic: Security Region: Asia Tags: ChinaNorth KoreaNuclearWarXi JinpingTrade War

America Must Choose Between a Trade War or a North Korea Deal

China is always a convenient scapegoat for whatever ails America, but at this moment Beijing’s help is particularly badly needed.

For those who thought the North Korea nuclear deal was more important than the price of dishwashers or snow blowers, it’s too bad since Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was, to his credit, possibly somewhat close to achieving denuclearization. In that respect, the choice to push ahead with a zero-sum approach to U.S.-China relations at this juncture seems most unfortunate, and the timing could not be worse. Perhaps Beijing will surprise all and push forward with denuclearization despite these grave trade tensions. That would reveal an impressive Chinese understanding of its enlightened self-interest and the overriding imperative to improve China's standing in the world generally and important relationships with both South Korea and Japan, in particular. To state the obvious, this author would very much like to be proven wrong in this generally pessimistic assessment linking the trade and North Korea issues.

Of course, the consolation prize for the North Korea nuclear proliferation quandary seems to be the “Pakistan solution,” wherein we gradually try to forget about Pyongyang’s growing arsenal of nuclear weapons and hope they somehow do not get used.

Lyle J. Goldstein is professor of strategy in the China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI) at the United States Naval War College in Newport RI. You can reach him at [email protected]. The opinions in his columns are entirely his own and do not reflect the official assessments of the U.S. Navy or any other agency of the U.S. Government.

Image: U.S. President Donald Trump, flanked by ?Vice President Mike Pence?, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, delivers remarks before signing a memorandum on intellectual property tariffs on high-tech goods from China, at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 22, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst