This is a China Play

Written By: - Date published: 8:00 am, June 13th, 2018 - 36 comments
Categories: China, Donald Trump, International, Korea, us politics - Tags:

This meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and United States President Trump is not the first and is not the most important play afoot.

The first meeting Kim Jong Un had since taking power in 2011 was with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Over the past two decades, Kim and his father and predecessor Jim Jong Il have met with more Chinese leaders than with all other foreign leaders combined. As North Korea’s neighbour, largest trading partner, and most important patron, China is both the country most responsible for facilitating Pyonyang’s provocations and the one with the most to lose should the regime collapse. It’s possible – as with Cuba – that following a set of successful negotiations a slow transition could occur. But more likely that North Korea’s brittle shell will simply implode bar for perpetual Chinese propping.

And yet in the months prior to U.S. President Trump’s explosive announcement in March 2018 of a forthcoming summit between the U.S. and North Korean leaders, U.S. officials have assumed responsibility and risk for what is in most part China’s problem. Trump has successfully colonised the North Korea discourse. If Trump’s hawks think Kim Jong Un will bow and open his doors to full Americanisation, they might want to revisit the history of China’s involvement in the Korean war.

On June 1st, Trump said, with respect to the Chinese sphere of influence around North Korea, “That’s their neighbourhood; it’s not our neighbourhood.” That is the right tone to take.

What is at stake for North Korea is reinstatement of much of their economy, which has been strangled through United Nations resolutions. Since 2006 they have included: demands to cease nuclear testing, and stopping luxury goods and some arms; a broadening out of the arms embargo and ship inspections in 2009; further sanctions in 2013 including right to seize and destroy cargo, and sanctions on money transfers and shutting them out of the financial system; 2016 bans on gold, titanium and rare earth metals, and on exports of coal, iron, nickel, zinc, and silver; seafood in 2017; then stopping crude and refined oil and petroleum, all joint ventures, textile exports, and banned North Koreans from working abroad in other countries.

Because of the force of censorship in North Korea, it’s really hard to say how bad all of those have made North Korean society. But it will be bad. Suffice to say the North Korean leader has never come to the table like this before.

China’s gamble is that Trump is taking the global glory for getting the meeting irrespective of what is actually achieved, and the very unlikely risk of a bad outcome to the talks (especially after the G7 debacle) is clearly one that Trump handles with ease. China’s further risk is that its errant client state begins to see more to gain from economic reforms similar that which Cuba went through and Iran is starting to see, and doesn’t need China as much anymore. There’s a slippery slide between a long-term Hong Kong handover scenario (recolonisation by China) and a Chinese Taipei scenario (U.S. tacit affiliation and armaments), and in the end North Korea is a whole bunch more China’s problem than any other country except South Korea.

The best case is that North Korea really does disarm from nuclear weapons, and North Korea and the United States actively engage with the U.N. Security Council to rescind the many resolutions.

So far as I am aware this has rarely worked before, but hey, I’m open minded.

But Trump now adds active international diplomacy to the active trade war against China. If he wins and gains preferential access for U.S. companies over all others in return for a partnership to overturn the U.N. resolutions, he boxes China itself.

This summit is a China play.

36 comments on “This is a China Play”

  1. Tamati Tautuhi 1

    The Art of the Deal.

  2. dukeofurl 2

    Us broke the ceasefire agreement at the end of the Korean war that ruled out nukes on the peninsula. They bought their own nuclear weapons with the US Army and Airforce around 1955, NK at the time didnt have nuclear weapons.

  3. Wayne 3

    We are at the start of a process. The real measure of progress will be what happens in the next few rounds of meetings, say by the end of the year.

    By then it will be clear if NK is serious about denuclearisation or not. They have to go down that path if they want any meaningful relief from sanctions. Also I would expect the basic shape of a peace treaty to be worked out. Trump has already signalled they want their troops out, effectively a signal to NK what they will get if they deal properly.

    NK obviously wants to remain a sovereign state, not unify with SK.

    That will be hard to do. For instance if HK opened up to the extent of China, with citizens able to travel freely, will the North Korean accept their govt as much as the Chinese do? It is a gamble for the NK leaders, though they will have a lot of Chinese support in how to do this.

    I notre that the usual anti-Trump crowd were piling into Trump. The worst being the Brit commentator on Morning report. He seemed to think the meeting was a waste of time. Completely ignoring that this is a process and that Pompero is about to go to NK to start the substantive negotiations.

    They key point of the Singapore meeting is that it provides the right atmospherics to set the train in motion. A lower level meeting would not do that. Both countries are now invested in future progress, unlike previous occasions.

    • Ad 3.1

      Agreed.

      The optics of signing anything between North Korea and the United States is exceedingly powerful. And Trump deserves credit for this. Xi Jinping had all the time in the world, and he’s enabling Trump to do the heavy lifting.

      I sure hope this isn’t the same old pattern of father Kim; merely a play for international acceptance after 6 years of reign.

      And Singapore was an excellent choice.

      • dukeofurl 3.1.1

        hello ?
        Signing anything between US and North Korea?

        Where have you been
        1994
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agreed_Framework

        Summary: Freeze of North Korean nuclear program, leading to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and initial Peace agreement between the United States and North Korea

        2003-2007
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six-party_talks

        And Guess What
        2004 first round -A Chairman’s Statement announced with seven articles, including:
        Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula
        Peaceful Coexistence of Participating States, stressing the use of mutually coordinated measures to resolve crises.

        2004 second round-Reconfirming the commitment to denuclearising the Korean Peninsula, stressing specification of the scope and time, interval (between steps of) and method of verification

        2005-Verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula
        Observe and realize the 1992 Korean Peninsula Denuclearization Declaration
        North Korea to agree to abandon all nuclear weapons and nuclear programs and return to the NPT as soon as possible

        Would you like to check the facts before claiming stuff that isnt true.
        Look at all the ‘Commitments to de-nuclearise !

        • Ad 3.1.1.1

          That was what I was implying in the statement:

          “…same old pattern of father Kim; merely play for international acceptance after 6 years of reign”

          But cheers for the citations.

          • dukeofurl 3.1.1.1.1

            I was worried that you were becoming a Trumpanzee

            • Ad 3.1.1.1.1.1

              Hah!
              No fear of that.

              But I would expect a 3 point poll “preferred / not preferred” rolling average bump for him on it.

    • Anne 3.2

      I notre that the usual anti-Trump crowd were piling into Trump. The worst being the Brit commentator on Morning report.

      Oh really? so you are another mindless fawner of America – no matter how ignorant, crass and corrupt the current Administration as proven to be?

      In contrast, the Brit commentator, Simon Marks comes across as sane and measured in his response which is more than you can say for many of the media hacks (including one or two of our own) who seem to have succumbed to collective media hysteria.

      https://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/audio/2018649034/kim-jong-un-meets-trump-but-deal-lacks-detail

      Skip the Trump diatribe and start listening @ 2:40.

      Lest we forget:
      One of the leaders is a serial murderer directly responsible for the death of his brother and uncle along with many thousands (probably) of North Koreans, and the other is a serial sexual harasser of women – at the very least – going back many years. Both men should be in prison.

      • Wayne 3.2.1

        Anne,

        You don’t have to be a Trump lover to give him at least some credit. As you know I would not have voted for him if I was an American, though I thought it was likely he would win.

        I have heard enough of Marks over the last 18 months to know that he thinks that Trump can never do anything right.

        The New Zealand media, with a few exceptions, has a completely negative view of Trump, RNZ being the worst in that regard. To get anything remotely balanced, you have to refer to overseas media, BBC for instance, or even CNN notwithstanding the ongoing “dispute” between CNN and Trump.

        The problem with the New Zealand media’s one sided coverage is that it results in the PM casually insulting Trump. The PM needs to rise above that.

        As for the actual document that was signed. Yes, it is similar to previous, but none of the previous documents were signed by the national leaders with the weight of expectation placed on them both.

        Yes, Kim Jong-un is a dictator with blood on his hands. The same could be said of Mao Tse Tung or the Soviet leaders of the 1960’s and 70’s. But who would now think the rapprochement of the US with China was a bad thing or the arms agreements with the soviet Union were not worth having?

        I am certain we are seeing the beginning of a process that will fundamentally change the Korean peninsula, and perhaps more than that.

        The true measure of the Singapore summit will be best measured in six months.

        • Anne 3.2.1.1

          To get anything remotely balanced, you have to refer to overseas media, BBC for instance, or even CNN notwithstanding the ongoing “dispute” between CNN and Trump.

          When ever anyone mentions the word “balance” I am reminded of the Global
          Warming debates of yesteryear – now referred to as Climate Change. 97% of the world’s weather and climate scientists were in total agreement that the tipping point for a catastrophic long term climate event occurring was being caused by human industrial and other activities. Yet for decades the world’s media – in the interests of balance – was giving the ideologically driven 3% the same amount of publicity as the 97%. That was not balance. That was stupidity and extremely dangerous stupidity at that.

          I view the meeting of Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un as nothing more than public grandstanding by two mendacious, attention-seeking exhibitionists. I will go on record here and state… nothing of lasting value will occur as a result of this Hollywood inspired piece of fictitious nonsense.

          And right on target:

          https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jun/13/trump-video-national-security-council-destiny-pictures

          It reminds me of a third rate Hollywood style propaganda movie ‘short’ of the 1960s. You have to see it to believe it.

      • Richard McGrath 3.2.2

        I assume you would also be wanting Bill and Hillary Clinton indicted for sexual abuse and post-abuse harrassment of victims respectively?

  4. Tamati Tautuhi 4

    …. or whether the US is serious about engaging constructively ?

    Anything is better than the current situation, the Cuban situation is exactly the same ?

  5. dv 5

    Hope they got the translations correct.
    There is one letter difference between denuclearisation and Renuclearisation!!!!

    Shades of the treaty????

    • dukeofurl 5.1

      First thing to remember there is NO treaty.
      Ill repeat that as many seem to not listen to the actual news but are beguiled by the optics. NO Treaty.
      Its what is called in the parlance a ‘communique’.

      Thats were both sides gush all sorts of flowery language and promise more ‘working towards’ and ‘increase understanding’ and such bumpf

      Cue the G7 meeting where they had a sort of a communique issued at the end which Trump then disavowed while still on Air Force one.

  6. Tamati Tautuhi 6

    Bit like the Treaty Of Waitangi there was a misinterperetation of the Treaty by the Settlor Governments, and the Maori Version of the TOW is different to the English version and not all Maori Leaders signed the Treaty so it probably is null and void and the land should really go back to the original owners ?

    • bwaghorn 6.1

      Or better still move to a new national agreement for all kiwis . Hanging on to some outdated flawed rag will one day lead to real trouble .
      I can’t imagine the effect it has on children growing up being told we was robbed by them has .

      • Tamati Tautuhi 6.1.1

        Yep there are some pretty screwed up people on both sides of the coin, and it is basically through ignorance. We don’t teach accurate NZ History in our schools ?

        • dukeofurl 6.1.1.1

          Which part of the treaty said maori should give up the land ?

          ‘Her Majesty the Queen of England confirms and guarantees to the Chiefs and Tribes of New Zealand and to the respective families and individuals thereof the full exclusive and undisturbed possession of their Lands and Estates Forests Fisheries and other properties which they may collectively or individually possess so long as it is their wish and desire to retain the same in their possession’

          seems clear to me, it says they are to retain their land etc as long as they see fit.

          Im not sure what point you are making ? That we a screwed up by ignorance?

    • solkta 6.2

      I would be careful arguing that the Treaty is null and void. If this is the case then Britain colonised this place by invasion. That would have been legal by both British law and Maori lore. Much better to argue the Treaty is valid but needs honouring.

  7. Bill 7

    I wonder how much of an influence the generational thing is having?

    What I mean by that is that many Koreans (North and South) no longer have any direct memory/experience of what gave rise to their current situation, and so might be approaching their state of affairs from a more neutral perspective than before.

    That being the case, it would only be a matter of time before it percolated up and into government thinking, and occasioned the type of meetings that took place last month between Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un.

    Unlike Moon Jae-in, Kim Jong-un doesn’t have to step back and let the “benefactor” state into the driving seat.

    I have no doubt China is offering encouragement or incentives to Kim Jong-un (possibly negative and positive), but that’s different to what I imagine is Moon Jae-in giving a broad set of directions to the US on the grounds that they (the Koreans of north and south) have decided the whole thing’s over.

  8. Stuart Munro 8

    The best outcome would be movement to normalize relations between the North and South and Japan, increasing the ease of travel and trade. I’m not sure Trump is pressing for movement in that direction, which would tend to dilute the tyrannical powers of Kim’s state. The pragmatic move Park made to normalize relations with Japan immediately postwar was not especially popular, but with northward trade blocked by North Korea, and the traditional east coast China trading halted by China’s role in the Korean war, it was South Korea’s best option. A lot of the North’s recurrent problems are economic and could be mitigated by greater freedom to trade.

  9. Ad 9

    Yesterday the United States also opened what is effectively an embassy in Chinese Taipei, and boy are the Chinese pissed.

    https://edition.cnn.com/2018/06/12/asia/us-taiwan-de-facto-embassy-china-intl/index.html

    An important underscore of the post that the North Korean talks fit as part of a play against China.

  10. Exkiwiforces 10

    I see this as a part China and North Korea playing a very long game of chess injunction with Russia and Iran. As Nth Korea has done a Camp’o on Trump and he has taken it hook, line and sinker without realising it yet and by the time the Yanks/West etc workout we have been had it will be to late.

    We are slowly driving in a Pea Soup fog towards war and the bloody fools at the wheel don’t realise it yet.

    The next 10-20yrs -/+5 yrs are going to get really interesting.

  11. SPC 11

    It is wiser to separate Korea from the other issues in play (economic or military confrontation with China). Having a nuclear armed North Korea part of that is not good for either party.

    Trump suspending military co-operation with the south and forecasting future withdrawal of American forces (as would occur with a formal peace settlement ending the Korean war) is the correct course. As is maintaining sanctions while waiting for denuclearisation to begin, and easing them as this occurs.

    Conceding that this is part of their (Asian mainland) region reduces the scale of the conflict between the USA and China, and does so without reference to Taiwan (thus the embassy move there) and Hong Kong (this speaks to the issue of continuing democracy in both places as an American objective, if not necessarily sovereign independence for Taiwan). Nor does it weaken the American position in the south China sea.

    The USA should seek a peace whereby Beijing guarantees the security of (both North and) South Korea when US forces leave.

  12. wayne mapp 12

    SPC,

    While the US may withdraw its troops as part of a peace treaty, they won’t want South Korea entirely in China’s orbit. And neither will South Korea want that, or for that matter Japan.

    In particular Japan wants the US to stay in Asia, or at least adjacent to it, since that gives Japan leverage vis a vis China. Remember that China and Japan have been foes (as well as friends) for many centuries. For instance Japan’s recall of the “divine wind” of 12th century which sank an invading Chinese fleet, or much more recently Japan’s invasion of China.

    It is much more likely that the US and China will be co-guarantors of any Korean peace treaty.

    • Sabine 12.1

      consider that the US still has troops in Germany what would make you think that they would withdraw troops? Wishful thinking?
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Americans_in_Germany
      How many US soldiers in Germany?
      At the time of German Reunification in 1990, there were still about 200,000 US soldiers in Germany. By 2014, the number had been steadily reduced to 42,450 stationed in 38 facilities.

    • SPC 12.2

      South Korea being a democracy would hardly be in China’s orbit, albeit in regards to a security guarantee – whereby both North and South Korea would be fully independent provided they maintained a good working relationship.

      The future of the USA in the region is as an ally to democracy/democratic nations in the region, and this can be continued after a Korean peace. A co-guarantor role for the US would be merely symbolic (sans troops in the ground and the way the veto is exercised in the UNSC).

      The US-Japan relationship should be seen as a separate one to the developments on the Korean peninsular – apart from the mutual interest in denuclearisation.

  13. Sabine 13

    so when will the orange menace lay the first stone to the gilded Trump tower in North Korea?

  14. Macro 14

    Maybe when this little court case is out of the way
    “Judge in Emoluments Case Questions Defense of Trump’s Hotel Profits”

    A federal judge on Monday sharply criticized the Justice Department’s argument that President Trump’s financial interest in his company’s hotel in downtown Washington is constitutional, a fresh sign that the judge may soon rule against the president in a historic case that could head to the Supreme Court.

    The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland, charge that Mr. Trump’s profits from the hotel violate anti-corruption clauses of the Constitution that restrict government-bestowed financial benefits, or emoluments, to presidents beyond their official salary. They say the hotel is siphoning business from local convention centers and hotels.

    The judge, Peter J. Messitte of the United States District Court in Maryland, promised to decide by the end of July whether to allow the plaintiffs to proceed to the next stage, in which they could demand financial records from the hotel or other evidence from the president. The case takes aim at whether Mr. Trump violated the Constitution’s emoluments clauses, which prevent a president from accepting government-bestowed benefits either at home or abroad. Until now, the issue of what constitutes an illegal emolument has never been litigated.

    my emphasis

  15. peterlepaysan 15

    This is pure chump theatre.
    The art of the deal is give everything away as long as I look good.
    China must be laughing itself silly.
    South Korea, Japan, Taiwan are now adrift.
    The Pacific is now the China Sea.
    Australia and NZ will replace South Korea, Japan and Taiwan as sacrificial pawns.
    China must be terrified (NOT).

    This is what happens when the two worst hairstyles in the world meet.

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