US President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un.
US President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un.

China Central Television’s 24-hour news channel this week finally had something besides escalating tensions to report on North Korea. Even against the backdrop of ongoing joint US-South Korean military exercises, Washington and Pyongyang finally seem to be dialing back their rhetoric.

A CCTV news segment on Wednesday rolled a clip of Donald Trump giving a speech in Arizona, where the president did his best to put a positive spin on the aftermath of his “fire and fury” remarks.

“But, Kim Jong-un, I respect the fact that I believe he is starting to respect us,” Trump said speaking at a campaign rally on Tuesday. “I respect that fact very much. Respect that fact.”

“And maybe, probably not, but maybe something positive can come about,” Trump added.

The clip was followed by footage of a smiling Kim Jong-un inspecting a weapons facility, but something notably absent was a threat of retaliation against US aggression.

The Global Times highlighted the shift in rhetoric on Thursday, noting that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also commended Pyongyang’s restraint in recent days.

“I’m pleased to see that the regime in Pyongyang has certainly demonstrated some level of restraint that we’ve not seen in the past. We hope that this is the beginning of this signal we’ve been looking for,” Tillerson said.

“Washington always focused its attention on Pyongyang’s tough stance and ‘provocations,’” the Global Times editorial said. “But this time, it praised the country for its restraint, a rare attitude toward Pyongyang. There is no rule to US-North Korean interactions, but obviously their current interactions are quite different from the previous war of words.”

The editorial’s Chinese title, “US and North Korea should recognize, accept each other’s goodwill“, was a welcome suggestion to the feuding nuclear states. The English title didn’t go quite as far as to suggest that what is happening already qualifies as goodwill, but nonetheless offers the same welcome sentiment.

Despite the best efforts from the US to pretend a military option is still on the table, it isn’t. Both sides would do well to start acting accordingly.

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