The US Treasury Department on Tuesday imposed new unilateral sanctions on North Korea. Among those targeted were four Dandong-based companies and one Chinese individual.
The sanctions were imposed a day after the US announced the re-listing of North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism, showing the Trump administration's determination to carry out extreme sanctions against North Korea.
However, the US moves have gone far beyond the UN Security Council resolutions that impose sanctions on Pyongyang. Now even China can feel US' presumptuousness, let alone North Korea. Washington is trying to test whether a country can be encircled by the rest of the world.
Both North Korea and the US are violating UN Security Council resolutions, with North Korea continuing its nuclear and missile tests and the US expanding the intent of UN resolutions at will.
China's Liaoning and Shandong provinces have suffered economic losses from the sanctions. US President Donald Trump has thanked China for help on North Korea, but Washington still targeted some Chinese companies, which is mean spirited.
Outdated mentalities still have an impact on current international relations. The US is the world's biggest economy and controls the international financial system in which it has the greatest say.
The losses that the other parties have suffered will soon be reflected in North Korea's economy. Although Pyongyang can take a staunch posture, it will soon feel the chill. It is increasingly difficult for China to maintain the scale of trade with North Korea that is required to meet humanitarian standards. China has tried its best to sustain people's basic livelihoods in North Korea. As China is deeply involved in globalization, it cannot economically deter the US to assist North Korea further.
Western journalists based in Beijing speculate that if North Korea launches another missile, Trump may order it shot down. If such a scenario takes place, North Korea's response can hardly be imagined.
North Korea may not launch a large-scale counterattack, nor will it swallow the insult. It will retaliate with measures that it deems "appropriate." How the US then evaluates the measures and whether the US will take revenge is another question.
Neither the US nor North Korea wants war. One will provoke the other amid tense confrontations and miscalculation becomes ever more possible. People have reason to be pessimistic about the prospects of the Korean Peninsula.
Undoubtedly, the US has the ability to knock North Korea down. But Washington should not forget that it has not suffered a counterattack by a nation state since the end of Cold War. Is Washington that confident it can win without a scrape? It had better think twice.