As a follow up to my North Korea Brief, did you notice in the past two days that the prospect of North Korea launching missiles at Guam very suddenly evaporated? Kim Jong Un Backs Down In Nuclear Showdown With Trump.
This is what I consider to be a rather wonderful application of B. H. Liddel Hart’s indirect approach to diplomacy. Remember, if the US had to actually invade North Korea, China was going to intervene on the side of NK.
All Trump had to do was talk about opening an investigation into China’s trade practices concerning Intellectual Property and Patent thefts from US companies doing business in China to China’s President Xi Jinping. That happened on Friday, August 11th. Mind you, nothing as of this moment that I write this has actually started beyond a memorandum to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to look into the matter.
On Tuesday, August 15th, Dear Leader Kim Jong-un decided to not fire missiles at Guam, reserving the right to change his mind, if “blah, blah, blah.”
Let me spell this out. The US market is China’s biggest customer. If we suddenly start “finding discrepancies” if how China deals with our companies, we might have to do something about it, like halting Chinese imports. This would be a bad thing for China.
The best visual I can use to describe how economics works is, imagine a person walking back and forth on a gymnastics balance beam, which is only 4” wide. This beam is suspended above a pit of hungry crocodiles. While walking back and forth on this balance beam and trying not to become crocodile lunch, this person has to juggle 15 running chainsaws. That are on fire. Any mistake, slip or mis-timed move and things rapidly go from bad to horrific.
There would be no winners in this. If we halt Chinese imports, their economy would quickly collapse. Which by consequence seriously hurt the US as well, since China is using the profits from what they sell to us to buy our Treasury bonds and keep our government overspending. Our government would then crash like Greg Biffle and Kasey Kahne trading paint and causing a twenty-six car pileup at Daytona in 2014. No one wants this to happen. Not the Chinese and certainly not us.
So I can only conclude that between when Trump spoke with Xi on Friday and Kim trying to back down gracefully on Tuesday, I can only infer that there were a lot of talking between Xi and Kim, along the lines of Xi saying, “Listen to me very carefully, you short, fat, petulant child, if you launch your missiles, after Trump bombs your sorry ass back to before the stone age I will send my troops into North Korea. My troops will find you and they will drag you face down behind a truck all the way to Beijing where I will personally drill a hole in your sorry bowl-cut forehead and I will scramble your grey matter with an egg beater to solve this problem I have with you. HAVE I MADE MYSELF ABUNDANTLY CLEAR!!!?!?!?!” (Not a direct quote. Probably.)
So by using the indirect method of threatening the entire Chinese economy, Trump forced China’s hand to do Trumps dirty work and bring Kim to heel. I fully anticipate that if this trade investigation gets anywhere, it might find a few minor violations which will be swiftly dealt with and it will be quickly back to business between the US and China. Was this Trump's idea, or did this come from one of his economic advisors? Don't know, don't care. I still don't like him, nor trust him. But I have to admit, this is an elegant solution to this crisis.
Look for China to retaliate in some way, probably in 6 months to a year. They do not like being made fools of, nor to do the work of their enemy. They are also patient. Let's hope Trump will be prepared and can apply a deft Judo move and thwart whatever the Chinese try.