Trump won’t blink in North Korea standoff. But China might.

In the 1960s, John F. Kennedy was facing the threat of nuclear weapons within striking distance of the United States. The Soviet forward-deployment forced America to stop Russia’s advance, just 90 miles from the homeland. Brinksmanship brought Kennedy “eyeball to eyeball” with Nikita Khrushchev. It was the Soviet president who blinked.

Fast forward to 2017. President Trump will not be the one who blinks, but someone else might. If it is Kim Jong-un, then the game of chicken and nuclear confrontation has paid off for this U.S. administration. The real challenge in this crisis, however, faces not Kim but his patron in Beijing.

Indeed, the real question in 2017 is whether Chinese President Xi Jinping will blink.

Tens of thousands of North Koreans gathered for a rally at Kim Il Sung Square carrying placards and propaganda slogans as a show of support for their rejection of the United Nations' latest round of sanctions on Wednesday Aug. 9, 2017, in Pyongyang, North Korea. Jon Chol Jin AP

Tens of thousands of North Koreans gathered for a rally at Kim Il Sung Square carrying placards and propaganda slogans as a show of support for their rejection of the United Nations' latest round of sanctions on Wednesday Aug. 9, 2017, in Pyongyang, North Korea. Jon Chol Jin AP

Trump’s team won a remarkable unanimous-vote UN Security Council resolution to punish North Korea last week. It was a diplomatic coup that set the legal and multilateral stage for action against North Korea and any nation aiding and abetting the pariah state. Mainly, that means China.  Read More