Farewell six-party talks?

So the US Department of Commerce has imposed tariffs on imports of glossy paper from China, bowing to pressure from the paper industry.

This is one of those cases that lead me to question whether the Bush administration is capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time.

At the same time that the administration has committed political capital to reaching a lasting agreement in the six-party talks — in which it is dependent upon China wielding its influence with North Korea — it has opted to provoke China in trade policy. Obviously the federal government is a colossal machine with each component focused on its own work, but did no one in the administration speak up with a reminder that maybe, just maybe, imposing these tariffs might undermine the six-party talks by prompting Chinese retaliation (perhaps by a sell off of China’s holdings of US Treasuries)?

So did the administration forget about the six-party talks, or does it not care? In any case, its policy incoherence is becoming dangerously reckless.

Meanwhile, I can imagine that the Japanese government is not altogether unhappy with the US move, particularly if China retaliates. After all, in the event of Chinese retaliation, the onus for undermining the talks will shift from Tokyo to Beijing.

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