With Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un slated to meet and discuss some terms at some point in the near future, China’s Xi Jinping has already brought the North Korean leader to Beijing in an effort to piece together an initial working environment.
Western policy makers particularly aren’t thrilled that neither Seoul nor Washington got to have any influence in the meeting, which happened completely outside the pale of their oversight. Of course, how dare two national neighbors get together for a diplomatic meeting without the permission or oversight of “the bringers of democracy”?
The China visit has added a layer of complication for Trump that had long been dormant because of years of estrangement between Pyongyang and Beijing.Now that ties are seemingly mended, that bodes ill for the White House, said Mount.“The division between Beijing and Pyongyang was really our greatest asset with respect to North Korea,” he told CNN. “If that narrows even slightly, that’s a sea change.It changes the outlook for negotiations that we have to adjust for very rapidly. It’s clear both Pyongyang and Beijing won’t be dictated to by Seoul and Washington, but also develop their own agenda. We should be aware that it might be a coordinated agenda,” Mount said.The notion that might have held sway until this week, that North Korea was prepared to meet with Trump and put “nukes” on the table, is no longer the case, said Mike Chinoy, a former CNN correspondent and author of “Meltdown: The Inside Story of the North Korean Nuclear Crisis,” who has made regular visits to North Korea in the past.“This didn’t look to me like a browbeating summit, that is not the dynamic at all,” Chinoy remarked. Rather, it appears that Kim has been shoring up his alliances in anticipation of the meeting with Trump.
Some policy makers in DC, however, who have been itching to “bring freedom and democracy” to North Korea, aren’t all that trilled about the idea of a peace agreement being pieced together by and with other world powers, which might not represent America’s interest in “freedom” for the North Koreans.
Trump’s newest national security adviser, John Bolton, a past US ambassador to the United Nations and noted hawk, has discounted North Korea’s sincerity, believing that the Kim regime’s appeal for talks masks a ploy to bide time until its nuclear program is up and running.Incoming Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has in the past advocated for regime change in North Korea.“There’ll be very sharp battles in Washington between people who want to test North Korea and those who have been itching to pick a fight with North Korea, and may finally hope that this is their chance,” said Chinoy.Some of that will depend on how large a role Beijing will play, and how much Chinese influence Washington is prepared to stomach.“We should not agree to allow China to host the summit or even be present at the summit,” said David Maxwell. “That said, the best outcome for this summit is simply a meet and greet between Trump and Kim Jong Un, an exchange of positions and an agreement to allow the diplomatic experts to begin the process of negotiating an agreement,” he told CNN. “We should not expect any breakthroughs.”
To make matters worse, Russia has announced its intentions work with China in establishing better relations throughout the region, which is certainly not what Washington wants to hear.
And while the White House recalibrates its approach to the summit following the Xi-Kim meeting, it may have to brace itself for the entrance of another world power keen on not being left out of future gatherings: Russia.On Wednesday, Russia signaled its approval of the Xi-Kim dialogue in Beijing. The Foreign Ministry added that Russia aimed to continue close cooperation with China to resolve tensions on the peninsula by “purely diplomatic means.”
Worse, still, China says it fully intends to continue being a part of the diplomatic atmosphere on the Korean peninsula. What if China proposes a more lenient offer than what Washington would like to see in establishing some sort of deal with Kim regarding his weapons program? This would not bode particularly well for American interests, as far as capitalizing on the opportunity to extend Washington’s control in the region, which, in some ways, depends on financial regulation and sanctions, in order to keep them in line.
Now that China has gotten the opportunity to flavor the cake by initiating live diplomatic discussions with the DPRK before any other regional powers, Washington and Seoul are becoming concerned that China’s involvement could lead talks in a direction that might stack the deck in a fashion not entirely controlled by the interests of Washington.