Amid all the self-righteous bluster emanating from America’s major newsrooms about President Trump’s accusation that former President Obama may have had Trump wiretapped during the campaign last year, an actually important snippet of news has gone all but unnoticed. It is this:
China has decided to cut off most of its coal purchases from North Korea.
That is a major development. The sale of coal to China has for years been one of North Korea’s most important sources of foreign cash.
The decision by China, N.K. watchers believe, seems to signal an end to China’s patience with its little neighbor’s flirtation with nuclear weaponry.
Also, the murder in February of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half brother may be something China is not willing to tolerate.
Cutting off foreign cash could put a big crimp in North Korea’s foreign adventures. Most of the components used in the construction of N.K.’s missiles comes from foreign countries, mainly Iran, which is happy to sell to a regime as venal and distasteful as its own.
Also, the murder of Kim’s half-brother may have been a serious affront to China, according to The Economist magazine, which said in its Feb. 25 issue that the launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile may have been a surprise blow to Chinese influence.
But even more serious may have been the murder of Kim Jong Nam, who “had been living on Chinese soil in the gambling enclave of Macau, probably under Chinese government protection. Some Chinese officials may have hoped that Mr. Kim Jong Nam, who favored economic opening, would one day replace his half brother.”
Will China abandon North Korea? Probably not. It still likes the idea of having a buffer between itself and South Korea.
But if the U.S. finds it necessary to knock out a few North Korean missile sites, a wink and a nod from China might make it a lot easier to do.
As long as North Korea continues to be a rogue state it will be a danger to the interests of other, less belligerent countries.
Now, then — did then-President Obama order wire-tapping of then-candidate Trump? One would hope not. But then the White House is a big place, as are other agencies associated with it, and it could be that word quietly filtered down that it could be helpful to the Hillary Clinton campaign if someone could find out something about Trump’s strategy.
The whole wire-tapping story is a little far-fetched. So why would Trump make it up and go public with it unless he had at least some credible information that he was the victim of wire-tapping?
He had very little to gain by making the accusation, and quite a bit to lose.
Something in this whole matter doesn’t make sense.
But it does make sense to keep a watchful eye on North Korea that might react with force as China withdraws its highly necessary cash flow.