At the invitation of US President Donald Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday talked over phone with Trump on bilateral relations as well as issues of the Korean Peninsula and Syria. The phone conversation came shortly after the Mar-a-Lago meeting, which indicates the communication mechanism between the two leaders is working efficiently.
When the world is worried that the simmering situation both on the Korean Peninsula and in Syria may deteriorate and spiral out of control, the phone call between the top leaders of China and the US will have an impact on how the international community perceives the bilateral relationship, and will help boost optimism about the international situation.
The Trump government is exerting pressure simultaneously on Syria and the Korean Peninsula. Washington has ruled out the possibility that Bashar al-Assad would have a place in Syria's future regime, following a missile attack on Syria. The current administration has not only reverted to the Obama administration's Syrian policy, but also become more aggressive, with the stakes raised. However, it's more difficult to overthrow the Assad regime now than a few years ago.
The Trump administration may want to exert more pressure on North Korea, creating an expectation in the outside world that it may militarily target North Korea and even launch a "decapitation attack." But if Pyongyang wages a desperate counterattack, Washington will be caught in a dilemma.
Taking military actions against North Korea is much more risky than launching a missile strike on Syria. Pyongyang is able to deal a heavy blow to South Korea. Regardless of Pyongyang's nuclear capability, a radiological dispersal device, or a "dirty bomb," if thrown on the South, will cause nuclear pollution, which will be unbearable to this US ally.
Once the Syrian and Peninsula issues deteriorate significantly, major power relations will face a severe test. The situation will be out of control in the event of a major strategic misjudgment. But it's pretty sure that Washington hasn't prepared itself for the worst-case scenario.
The US has no power to put global affairs in order at the moment. The White House needs to be aware of this reality. Washington seems to be poised to extend its battle line now, which however may not be what it desires.
No matter it's about toppling Assad or militarily forcing Pyongyang to surrender, it cannot be achieved in a short time. The strategic circle of Washington has underestimated the uncertainties.
Coordination among major powers is of critical importance. Risks can be controlled if an agreement can be reached by the UN Security Council. Serious divergences among major powers will turn into realistic trouble. In 2003, the US waged a war against Iraq without the endorsement from the UN Security Council. One important reason for the failure of the war is the divergences among major powers.
The US needs to make more efforts to coordinate the positions of major powers on hotspot issues, seeking to reach consensus. In this way Washington can really take the initiative in solving these problems.