Donald Trump, who is set to fly to Asia in early November, has surprisingly praised Beijing for helping Washington in the dealings with North Korea and accused Russia of "going through the other way." Sputnik Radio discussed the remarks with Dr. Nah Liang Tuang, Research Fellow with the Military Studies Program at Singapore-based Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies.
Sputnik: Do Trump's remarks signify a change of rhetoric regarding North Korea?
Dr. Nah Liang Tuang: Change of rhetoric? Personally, I would not take President Trump's casual comments as a gauge of the US' attitude. You have to remember that he once expressed frustration that the Chinese "weren't doing enough." If Moscow faithfully implements the latest round of UNSC resolution according to the international law, I would not be surprised if he changed his tune and instead praised Moscow.
Sputnik: Trump is about to embark on an Asian tour. Does this contribute to the timing of his statements?
Dr. Nah Liang Tuang: Linking Trump's comments with his Asian tour is quite possibly a bit of a stretch. Arguably, President Trump says what he wants to whenever he wants to. Some have said that he goes off script and he does not quite follow what his script writers want him to say or what has been planned for him to say. One thing you have to remember is that Trump is not a conventional Republican or a Democratic politician, which Washington is used to seeing.
Sputnik: Trump's statements come after days of reports of Washington stepping up its military readiness. Where is the logic here?
Dr. Nah Liang Tuang: As I said earlier on, it is quite possible that President Trump has a tendency to issue comments "off-the-cuff." That said, I honestly don't think that the Pentagon or the US military actually coordinate that or work together with Trump to do whatever they did. When he mentioned that China was helpful and Russia was not, it was possible he meant to send rather a strong message to North Korea. Frankly speaking, I think that is all it is.
Sputnik: Do you think the US will ever commit to the Russia-China plan over North Korea?
Dr. Nah Liang Tuang: Given the current political climate and geopolitical realities on the ground in the Korean Peninsula, I do not think that the US will ever agree to suspend military exercises with the Republic of Korea in return for North Korea's freezing of its nuclear program or its suspension of nuclear testing or missile testing. The fact of the matter remains that North Korea's nuclear and missile aggrandizement or nuclear-missile antagonism is expressively prohibited under UNSC resolutions. Whereas any and all exercises that the US holds with South Korea are entirely legal.
Sputnik: How committed is the US to resolving Korean tensions or is it just about geopolitical domination?
Dr. Nah Liang Tuang: I would not link any attempt of geopolitical domination with seriousness in solving the North Korean tensions. Any US administration would love to bring the North Korean nuclear crisis to a conclusive and permanent end. That said, for Trump's agenda, resolving North Korean nuclear crisis would allow him more resources and more time to focus on domestic issues, which, he would argue, he would be more interested in.
The US leader has accused Russia of impeding his attempts to deal with the North Korean nuclear dispute. In an interview with Fox Business Network, which was aired on Wednesday, Donald Trump surprisingly praised China for "helping" the US while suggesting that Russia "may be going through the other way and hurting what we’re getting."
"When I say ‘may be,’ I know exactly what I’m talking about,” he added.
Mr Trump’s comment came as a senior North Korean diplomat said the possibility that his country might conduct a nuclear test over the Pacific Ocean had to be taken seriously. Ri Yong Pil told CNN that the September warning by North Korea’s foreign minister, that Pyongyang might test the most powerful hydrogen bomb, had to be taken literally.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo predicted last week that Pyongyang was merely months away from commissioning a nuclear weapon that could strike the US mainland.
North Korea has carried out several missile tests in the last few months. In September, Pyongyang tested what it said was a hydrogen bomb, in violation of a UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution. The UNSCl has tightened sanctions against North Korea, but Pyongyang has so far shown no inclination to halt its missile or nuclear programs.