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Obama uses gunboat diplomacy with North Korea -- and China

After the North Korean attack on a South Korean island, Obama sends an aircraft carrier to the Yellow Sea -- irritating China, which may be the point. Beijing needs to rein in its wily ally.

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President Obama made a clever strategic move after a North Korean rocket attack killed two civilians and two soldiers Tuesday in South Korea. He decided to respond with a naval surge – directed not only at North Korea but also at its closest ally, China.

The president ordered an aircraft carrier strike force into the Yellow Sea, off the western shore of North Korea – the scene of the North’s barrage on a South Korean island. But this is also an area that Beijing vigorously claims as its own watery turf.

By sending in the USS George Washington carrier to conduct joint exercises with South Korea, Mr. Obama is risking an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with China. In recent months, top Chinese military officials have warned the United States not to send ships or planes into the Yellow Sea. They have even promised financial retribution.

China “won’t stand” for such US naval provocation, wrote Maj. Gen. Luo Yuan of the People’s Liberation Army in an August editorial. “Imagine what the consequences will be if China’s biggest debtor nation [the US] challenges its creditor nation,” he stated.

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