North Korea probably sank a foreign warship, killing everyone aboard, and now after four months of diplomacy faces no punishment. South Korea and its American ally came away with nothing from their political momentum. And China claimed diplomatic victory.
How did we screw this one up? Blame the state department for butting heads with the one country that matters: China.
Peter Lee at Asia Times has more on the bungled gamesmanship:
If, as is presumably the case, North Korea engineered the outrage, it cleverly and effectively exposed a faulty assumption behind America’s Korean policy: that, when push came to shove, China would give decisive weight to its booming economic relationship with South Korea and side with Seoul against Pyongyang.
The exact opposite occurred.
Rather than ask China for help, America asked everyone but China:
Beijing viewed the entire orchestrated Cheonan exercise – which included an “international investigation” that pointedly excluded China, the subsequent elevation of the issue to the UN Security Council, a featured role for Lee at the recent Shangri-La defence ministers conference in Singapore, and coordinated expressions of outrage from America’s allies – as an effort to embarrass, isolate and diminish China over the issue of its support for North Korea.
China was treated as if it had little legitimate role on the peninsula and, indeed, could only hope to have its national interests considered if it purchased an admission ticket – demonstrating its “responsible superpower” qualifications by putting economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea in the wake of the sinking.
So China called our bluff, backed North Korea, and showed that Clinton was playing a losing hand.