Irrational actors rarely make rational decisions.
The amount of controversy that has engulfed the Trump Administration is no secret. Accusations of half-hearted legislating, ineffectiveness, and even treason have been levied against the President in the seven months he has held office. Finger pointing and blame shifting have left the American public both disappointed and distracted.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) fired its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching many major United States cities including: Los Angeles, Denver, and even as far east as Chicago. Unsurprisingly, the news made the headlines of many major news outlets, but the repeal and replace vote on health care in the Senate Chamber garnered more attention; pandemonium never truly set in. Now that North Korea can reach the United States, the first domino has fallen making it necessary to observe the reactions of the major players in East Asia – specifically, those of China, Japan, South Korea, and finally, the United States.
China finds themselves in a very precarious situation. While they remain North Korea’s biggest ally they continue to be reliant on the United States to continue their export-led growth. China’s growth model is dependent on utilizing cheap labor — and currency manipulation — to sell large quantities of products to their trading partners at low cost. Most of those products’ final destination is the United States ($457B), which is nearly double the next regional importer (Hong Kong, $273B).
The countries being mutually dependent leaves China’s response alarming, and disappointing, to many. In response to President Trump’s tweet that he was “Very Disappointed in China”, their Foreign Minister claimed that all countries need to work together as the problem didn’t originate in their country. The United States must keep a close eye on China as they are North Korea’s biggest ally and one of the United States’ largest trading partners. They may be the only major international player that is positively, and significantly, linked to both the United States and North Korea.
Japan and South Korea
While China remains an economic ally of the United States and North Korea, both Japan and South Korea find themselves alarmed by any military advances of their neighboring countries’ military. Not only are both of these countries reliant on United States’ economic influences, unlike China, they also align themselves with the USA militarily. Japan has gone so far as to constitutionally restrict military involvement under Article 9 by renouncing war as a right of their country. Although this article remains a piece of their constitution today, it has stayed in place due to the US-Japan Security Treaty; gifting them United States military backing. Although South Korea enjoys the luxuries of United States military hegemony, they have been in talks to significantly increase the quantity of missiles in their own armory.
Although most countries share the common trait of economic dependence on the United States, many are rapidly growing uneasy. China is stuck in the middle of a chess game between economic and military allies, while South Korea and Japan remain dependent on the United States. Although the United States has yet to settle on a course of action, the rest of the world is anxiously anticipating the next sequence of actions by the largest, and most influential, military in the world – the United States.
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