President Obama and President Hu Jintao of China talked by telephone on Monday about North Korea, culminating 13 days of effort by the White House to persuade China’s leaders to discuss a crisis that many experts fear could escalate into military action.
Administration officials say they have no evidence Mr. Hu was ducking the call, which the Chinese knew would urge them to crack down on their unruly ally, a step Beijing clearly is highly reluctant to take amid a leadership succession in North Korea. White House officials insisted that the long delay was simply the result of scheduling problems.
But in Beijing, both Chinese and American officials and analysts have another explanation: the long silence epitomizes the speed with which relations between Washington and Beijing have plunged into a freeze. This year has witnessed the longest period of tension between the two capitals in a decade. And if anything, both sides appear to be hardening their positions.