[playing] the United States against the Soviet Union


Senior Member
The quotation comes from North Korea’s Nuclear Arms Sustain Drive for ‘Final Victory’

Quotation: North Korea appears bent on following that progression. A nuclear program that can threaten the United States, making war unthinkable, would be only step one — and may, with the missile tests this summer, now be complete.

China ultimately won acceptance by playing the United States against the Soviet Union, not by rattling nuclear sabers. Its size and power also made it impossible for other nations to ignore it, advantages that North Korea lacks.
Hi everyone! What does "play" here mean?
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Causing one to compete against the other. Usually in the sense that if they're 'playing' (confronting) each other, they won't be playing or confronting you, so you do sneaky or subtle things to change their priorities. I'm not sure where which game or sport this image comes from, if it has a specific origin.

    The Newt

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I suspect it's a common truncation of "to play X off against Y," which the Cambridge Dictionary defines as to encourage one person or group to compete or argue with another, hoping to gain some advantage from this situation.
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