A day after U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin extended an invitation to his Chinese counterpart to hold another round of trade talks aimed at avoiding yet another escalation, the White House has apparently reversed course. According to Bloomberg, U.S. President Donald Trump has ordered his aides to proceed with implementing the next round of tariffs on Chinese exports – 25 percent targeting some $200 billion in goods. An announcement on the new tariffs is reportedly being delayed until the administration can finish a lengthy process of revisions based on objections made during the public comment period, which expired at the beginning of September. Implementation of this round was expected to be delayed until after the next Mnuchin-led talks could be held, which suggested that the White House may have been feeling the heat from U.S. trade and industry ahead of midterm elections, but this may no longer be the case. Regardless, both the U.S. and China are digging in for a protracted fight. The U.S. thinks it has all the leverage. China thinks the stakes are too high to cave.

The U.S. is continuing to put Russia at the center of the North Korea nuclear issue. On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Russia of actively working to undermine U.N. Security Council sanctions on the Hermit Kingdom. This came a day after similar comments were made by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, who called for an urgent meeting of the UNSC for Monday, and following the U.S. imposition of new sanctions on two firms, one Russian and one Chinese, that have allegedly been acting as front companies for North Korean interests. Sanctions enforcement is certainly key to getting any kind of substantive concessions from Pyongyang, and Russia has certainly been acting as a lifeline for North Korea. But the U.S. is also motivated by its broader strategic concerns regarding China and Russia here, putting North Korea in a familiar role at the center of a burgeoning competition between larger powers.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Venezuela sold China a 9.9 percent stake in a joint oil venture during President Nicolas Maduro’s four-day trip to China. Caracas and Beijing also inked a memorandum of cooperation over a bloc in Venezuela’s vast oil-rich Orinoco Belt.
  • The U.S. is demanding access to Russian chemical weapons facilities. Russia isn’t interested.
  • South Korea launched its first missile-capable submarine.
  • Turkey is putting a hold on new government investment projects in an effort to rein in spending and stem spiraling inflation.
  • Saudi Arabia says it shot down a missile launched by Houthi rebels in Yemen targeting an Aramco refinery.
  • The Japanese military announced it will hold its first joint exercise with the British army in Japan.
  • Chinese home prices posted their fasted growth in nearly two years, reflecting both the continuing strength of the Chinese economy and perpetual concern that a housing bubble could spark an uncontainable crisis.