While the Trump administration continues to paint the Chinese and Russian position as one of either being with America or being with North Korea, this false dichotomy is not only insulting to two fellow superpowers, but it is deeply misguided.
The Chinese and Russian position was reaffirmed during yesterday’s UN Security Council meeting as the Ambassadors of both countries stated that they seek North Korea to stop testing its weapons and to come to the negotiating table while equally seeking the removal of US THAAD missile systems (which are far more powerful than anything North Korea has) from South Korean soil. This position was later reaffirmed by Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi after their meeting at the ASEAN summit hosted by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.The position of China and Russia is in short, one that aims for peaceful de-weaponisation of the Korean peninsula.
This important issue can only be addressed properly if both Russia and China address one of the biggest changes to North Korea over recent years, one that is at present, hardly ever discussed.
Unlike his father and grandfather, Kim Jong-Il and Kim Il-Sung, respectively, the current North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has had precious few bilateral meetings with other foreign leaders and no official trips abroad.
Kim Jong-Un was to travel to Moscow on the 9th of May, 2015 to attend Victory Day celebrations with other world leaders, but cancelled, instead opting to pay a respectful visit to the Russian Embassy in Pyongyang. North Korea did not offer an explanation for Kim’s cancelled visit while Russia merely stated that the cancellation was due to internal North Korean matters.
By contrast, Kim Jong-Il frequently met with world leaders. In addition to meeting many leaders of Communist and Non-aligned countries, he made visits to both Russia and China and in the year 2000, hosted Vladimir Putin in Pyongyang for a bilateral summit.
North Korean produced films show that the country felt an immense sense of pride in respect of the foreign relations conducted by Kim Jong-Il. Kim Il-Sung’s visit from former US President Jimmy Carter in 1994 was also widely hailed by North Korean media as a success.
In this sense, North Korea wants what almost any other nation wants fro bilateral relations: respect, productivity and the ability to bargain rather than give something for nothing. If Jimmy Carter could understand this simple concept, it seems pitiful that it has been largely lost on recent US leaders, including Barack Obama.
While Donald Trump once stated it would be an “honour” to meet Kim Jong-Un under the appropriate circumstances, Trump’s ability to be a master of his own foreign policy seems deeply compromised due to the internal chaos in Washington.
By contrast, the Russian and Chinese governments function in a far smoother and more professional manner vis-a-vis the United States. For this reason and because both Russia and China border North Korea, Presidents Putin and Xi ought to offer Kim the ability to travel to a joint summit of Russia and Chinese leaders to engage in a peace process based on the good intentions that both Moscow and Beijing have shown when calling for peace on the Korean peninsula.
If some such summit could include South Korean President Moon Jae-in, this would be all the more important. While Donald Trump continues to patronise China for what he sees as China supporting an American position, he continues to fail to acknowledge that China has its own position which is not shared by the US, South Korea or North Korea, but is shared by Russia.
With the peace minded Moon in power in Seoul and with North Korea almost certainly wanting assurances that the US is not about to invade, it is a natural conclusion that China and Russia should step in to responsible settle the crisis.
This solution would not only be good for peace, but it would be a helpful way for Russia, but especially China which is more consistently insulted by the current US President, to show that they are more than capable of handing that which the US has proved objectively incapable of doing: creating peace in East Asia.