Re-ignited Cold War
At this point, as a result of the sequence of events in the past few years and other bizarre reasons, the US and Russia have re-ignited a Cold War. One of the characteristics of a Cold War is tic-for-tac actions, dirty tricks, and doing things that would foil or complicate matters for the adversary. The US Tomahawks strikes in Syria and the Russian moves relating to North Korea are classic examples of this zero-sum game tactics. You hurt me here, I hurt you there.
Two weeks ago, the Chinese press reported that Russian troops and armaments have been moved to its narrow 17-km land border with North Korea, and Chinese military analysts commented that Russia is supplying the North Koreans to what extent and whether it violates the UN sanction are not further explained. Because of their proximity and quality of intelligence, what the Chinese decide to say are usually very reliable.
The West Stays Mum
I have not found report of this in the West. This is not something that would be reported in the US mainstream media, unless the government decides to confront the Russians. It is something hard to prove if the Russians did it in such a way as to forestall outside verifiability after the fact. The US and NATO are doing similar things in European countries bordering Russia and all over the Middle East where Russia has strategic stakes. So unless the US administration wants a confrontation, it will stay mum and keep a close watch. It is a Cold War norm. Of course, US intelligence probably is well on top of the situation.
Provocations and Preparations
For the first time in decades, Russia has blocked last week’s vote at the UN reprimanding North Korea. Meanwhile, Russian warplanes are cruising over US air recognition zone in the North Pacific four times last week (even during the height of the Cold War period, once every fortnight was more normal). Tension is very high, and both sides are working to upgrade the quality of their nuclear arsenals.
Meanwhike, Japan is stoking the fire and making a lot of noise about taking preemptive action into North Korea, which it is technically not allowed to do under its Constitution. South Koreans are very angry about that, since they are on the front line of fire.
The Heavy Overcast
Indeed, as China’s foreign minister Wang Yi said, the world is under a heavy overcast. Any worsening of the situation would bring us into what Winston Churchill called “the gathering storm”, which was on the eve of the outbreak of World War Two.
That is why China is trying hard to work with the US to try to prevent such a scenario, and applying pressure on North Korea to come to the negotiating table. It is well aware of the intriques coming simultaneously from multiple sides, in what is now a polycentric world. It is a very delicate operation.
So the Chinese position is at least : Not on my front or back yards, you do not.