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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on May 18)

All News 07:00 May 18, 2020

New cold war
Superpower rivalry could wreak havoc on Korea

U.S. President Donald Trump seemed to have gone too far in dealing with China by threatening to sever ties with the world's second-largest economy. His rhetoric toward Beijing has been becoming harsher and harsher since he started playing a blame game with the Asian giant over the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic early this year.

In an interview with Fox Business News last Thursday, Trump said, "There are many things we could do … We could cut off the whole relationship." He even added, "You'd save $500 billion if you cut off the whole relationship." The sum he mentioned is equivalent to the total annual imports to the U.S. from China. He seems to regard the cost of imports as a loss to America.

Trump's remarks sounded not only like a threat, but also a kind of bullying of the U.S. rival. They are, however, not surprising given his inexorable and relentless rhetoric based on his self-serving attitude and "America first" mindset. The real-estate-mogul-turned-president once again proved that his sees everything ― from diplomacy to trade and public health ― only from the narrow-minded perspective of making a profit.

His threat certainly reflects worries that Beijing might not fully implement the Phase 1 trade deal signed by the G2 countries in January. The deal faces the risk of falling apart due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its crippling impact on the global economy. The accord calls for China to buy $200 billion more in U.S. products over the next two years than it did in 2017.

But China purchased 3 percent less American goods in the first four months of this year compared with the same period of 2019. This could bode ill for Trump's efforts to reduce the U.S. trade deficit with China.

Nevertheless, it is wrong for Trump to threaten to break off relations with Beijing. He should realize that growing U.S.-China tensions over trade and pandemic issues will only do harm to both countries as well as the world. All will become losers if a new trade war takes place between the two superpowers. A looming "coronavirus Cold War" could lead to catastrophic consequences.

What Trump has done so far since the outbreak of the coronavirus is to blame China while failing to respond to the virus quickly and properly. He has just tried to shirk his responsibility for the failure by calling COVID-19 the "Plague from China" or the "Wuhan virus." The more he tries to blame others and justify his blunders, the less chance he stands of being re-elected.
In response to Trump's dangerous remarks, Beijing has called on Washington for compromise and to step up cooperation in fighting the pandemic. As China's foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Friday, the two countries should maintain good relations to serve the interests of both the American and Chinese people, and contribute to world peace and stability.

The superpowers' rivalry could wreak havoc on South Korea as the U.S. and China are our top trading partners. It reminds us of China's economic retaliation against us for allowing the U.S. to deploy an anti-ballistic missile battery here in 2017.

It could also negatively affect the stalled denuclearization talks between the U.S. and North Korea as well as the tense defense cost-sharing talks between Seoul and Washington. Seoul should work out measures to better cope with the new Cold War.

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