Sunday, July 2, 2017
Trump, Xi Jinping, and Moon Jae-in Take on North Korea -- Each in His Own Way
THE REAL NEWS TODAY IS THAT NORTH KOREA IS HIGH ON PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ACTION LIST. • He is losing patience. • • • TRUMP MET SOUTH KOREAN PRESIDENT AND SEEKS INTERNATIONAL CONSENSUS ON NORTH KOREA. TheHill reported last Friday that President Trump says the United States’ “patience is over” with North Korea, calling for an aggressive international effort to curb the rogue state’s nuclear program. In a press conference held with South Korea's President Moon Jae-in at the White House, Trump said : “Together, we are facing the threat of the reckless and brutal regime in North Korea. The nuclear and ballistic missile programs of that regime require a determined response.” • The President didn’t say which specific actions would be included, and he didn't take questions after speaking with Moon in the Rose Garden following an hour-long meeting. But, Trump emphasized that he would take a more aggressive approach than former President Obama, who favored a policy of “strategic patience” to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear ambitions. Trump told reporters : “The era of strategic patience with the North Korean regime has failed -- many years it has failed -- and, frankly, that patience is over." South Korea’s new leader vowed to stand firmly with Trump against North Korea, downplaying his past advocacy for a softer approach toward the isolated regime. Moon told reporters : "Together we will achieve the dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear program, peace on the Korean Peninsula and eventually peace in Northeast Asia." Moon later told the Washington Post that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is "unreasonable" and "very dangerous" and that pressure is necessary. But, Moon said sanctions alone would not solve the problem -- dialogue is needed "under the right conditions." • South Korea has delayed the full deployment of the American THAAD missile defense system that is intended to protect South Korea and the 28,000 US forces on the peninsula. Moon's government has ordered an environmental review before allowing additional launchers for the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system. South Korean officials say that does not mean they are placating China or reversing the decision, which risks angering the US. The South Korean president added that his country would pursue defense reforms and continue to build its capacity to defend itself. Moon said the North Korea issue was a top priority during the talks, stressing that "only strong security can bring about genuine peace" in the Asia-Pacific region. The talks between Moon and Trump, which began with dinner on Thursday night and then formal talks on Friday, came amid intense debate over how to deal with North Korea. • Calling for an international response to North Korea, President Trump asked major powers in the Asia-Pacific region, a group that includes China, to hit the government of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with sanctions, and “demand that the North Korean regime choose a better path, and do it quickly, and a different future for its long-suffering people.” • The President's comments come amid an effort by the Trump administration to ramp up pressure on Beijing to do more to confront North Korea over its nuclear program, viewed by the administration as one of the top security threats to the US. The comments are an indication that Trump is preparing to take a tougher stance during his meeting next week with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. During their first meeting in April at the President's Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, Trump spoke enthusiastically of Xi and his influence over Pyongyang. But last week, Trump appeared to be exasperated with China’s efforts on North Korea, when he tweeted : “While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!” • • • US MILITARY PREPARING OPTIONS FOR THE PRESIDENT. In a speech last week laying out the administration’s North Korea policy, national security advisor H.R. McMaster warned that the US is preparing military options. Fox News reported last Thursday that the Trump administration is considering a wider range of strategies on how to deal with North Korea, including the military option, quoting McMaster, who spoke at a security conference with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. McMaster said : “The President asked us to prepare a range of options, including a military option that no one wants to take....The threat is much more immediate now and so it’s clear that we can’t repeat the same approach -- failed approach of the past." McMaster said it would be insanity to continue to do the same thing the US has done for years and expect a different result. His comments were made the day before Trump met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. The US has already stepped up shows of military force near the Korean Peninsula under Trump. And, outrage has grown in Washington over North Korea since the death of US university student Otto Warmbier, who had spent 17 months in detention in the totalitarian state for stealing a propaganda poster before being returned home by North Korea in a coma. Three other Americans and six South Koreans are still being held in the North. • • • UN AMBASSADOR HALEY TELLS CONGRESS RUSSIA COULD BE A PROBLEM. Reuters reported last week that US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told Congress the United States is "concerned that Russia could provide support to Pyongyang and fill any vacuum left by Beijing." Haley added : "I'm concerned that Russia may backfill North Korea. We don't have proof of that, but we are watching that carefully." • While Washington is urging countries to downgrade ties with Pyongyang over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, a cross-border ferry service was launched in May between North Korea and neighboring Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the world should talk to, rather than threaten, North Korea. Haley said : "We just need to keep the pressure on China, we need to keep our eyes on Russia, and we need to continue to let the North Korea regime know we are not looking for regime change...we just want them to stop the nuclear activity." • The UN Security Council first imposed sanctions on North Korea in 2006 over its ballistic missile and nuclear programs and has ratcheted up the measures under Trump in response to five nuclear tests and two long-range missile launches. But, the Pyongyang regime is threatening a sixth nuclear test. • • • US PUTS PRESSURE ON CHINA. The Trump administration has been pressing China aggressively to rein in its reclusive neighbor, warning that all options are on the table if Pyongyang persists with its nuclear and missile development programs. But, while China has repeatedly said its influence on North Korea is limited and that it is doing all it can, President Trump said in June that China's efforts had failed. The United States has struggled to slow North Korea's programs, which have become a security priority given Pyongyang's vow to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the US mainland. Haley seemed to be voicing President Trump's concerns when she told Congress : "The pressure on China can't stop. We have to have China doing what they're supposed to. At the same time all other countries need to make sure they're enforcing the sanctions that the Security Council has already put in place." • Trump, frustrated with China over its inaction on North Korea and bilateral trade issues, has been considering possible trade actions against Beijing, and last Thursday, the Treasury Department applied sanctions to a Chinese bank and a handful of Chinese citizens accused of helping North Korea access international financial systems to help fund their nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told the media : "We are in no way targeting China with these actions. This is about North Korea and how serious we are taking this." • A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman urged the US to "stop wrongful actions" to avoid harming co-operation between the two nations. The US said the blacklisting, which included sanctions on a Chinese shipping company and two Chinese nationals, was aimed at cutting funds to North Korea's weapons programs. Secretary Mnuchin said : "We will follow the money and cut off the money." But Mnuchin said the move was not a response to Chinese inaction on North Korea, adding: "This is not directed at China, this is directed at a bank, as well as individuals and entities in China," including a shipping company. • The BBC reports that China is pushing the United States to start negotiations with the North, but : "That prospect appears unlikely as Trump grows frustrated over Beijing's level of economic pressure on the North, its wayward ally." And, says the BBC : "North Korea shows no sign of wanting to restart talks on abandoning its nuclear weapons program." In April, China said it was seriously concerned about North Korean nuclear development, in the wake of a BBC interview with a top official from North Korea, the vice-foreign minister, who told the BBC that Pyongyang would continue to test missiles and would launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike if it thought the US was planning an attack. China's foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at that time that China opposed words or actions that could further raise tension. • When US Vice President Mike Pence was in East Asia earlier this year, he warned the North not to test Washington and said the US would "defeat any attack and meet any use of conventional or nuclear weapons with an overwhelming and effective American response." The US Navy Carl Vinson strike group -- consisting of an aircraft carrier and other warships -- went to the region in April, after receiving an order from President Trump. • • • CHINA REMAINS CALM. Last Friday, Reuters reported that China is "sanguine as Trump-Xi 'bromance' sours over North Korea and Taiwan." Reuters said China "reacted relatively calmly" last Friday after a series of diplomatic broadsides by the United States. China expressed anger over new arms sales by Washington to Taiwan but sqid it hoped ties could soon be brought back on track. Last week, the United States announced a $1.4 billion arms sale for Taiwan, and said it would like sick Chinese dissident and nobel Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo to be treated "elsewhere." The US has also placed China on its global list of the worst offenders in human trafficking and forced labor and senior US officials told Reuters that Washington is considering trade actions against Beijing, including tariffs on steel imports. Trump met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last Monday at the White House and made a point of noting that the United States, India and Japan would be joining together in naval exercises soon in the Indian Ocean, a point that seemed aimed at China. • While China said it was "outraged" at the arms sales for Taiwan, and upset with the North Korea-related sanctions, according to Reuters it did not make specific threats of retaliation. Jia Qingguo, dean of the School of International Studies at Peking University who has advised the government on foreign policy, cautioned against interpreting recent events as indicating a shift in China-US relations, saying it was still too early to tell : "We had a good first summit and a good beginning but the relationship in the long run is characterized by not just cooperation but also conflict. Arms sales to Taiwan, the South China Sea and East China Sea, and other problems in the relationship will appear. It's a question of how much the two countries will be able to manage these conflicts, whether they can manage them better than the previous administration." • • • DEAR READERS, Trump and Xi are expected to meet on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. Another professor, Shen Dingli of Shanghai's elite Fudan University, commented : "How does the Chinese government view Trump? We're still discovering who he is. He often does things we can't predict. We're not clever enough to predict what he'll do." Shen said that while China has worked hard to get Trump to understand the importance of Taiwan to the China-US relationship, it has never seriously expected Washington to stop selling it weapons, provision for which is explicitly made in US law : "The US selling weapons to Taiwan is routine. They're selling much less than before, and that's much better. So I don't think there's anything too terrible about that." China's Defense Ministry, responding to the US weapons sales, said Taiwan was the "most important, most sensitive core issue" between the United States and China. • And, President Trump is not alone in applying pressure ot China and President Xi. The arms sale came right after a US Senate committee approved a bill calling for the resumption of port visits to Taiwan by the US Navy for the first time since Washington distanced itself from Taipei and established ties with Beijing in 1979. China's Defense Ministry registered its opposition to the bill last Thursday, but spokesman Wu Qian pointed out that as long as they respect each other's core concerns, the Chinese and US militaries can be an "engine of stability" for the two countries. • Shi Yinhong, head of the Center for American Studies at Beijing's Renmin University and an advisor to the Chinese government on diplomacy, told Reuters it is important that people are realistic about the challenges China and the United States face : "Perhaps people appraised too highly the Xi-Trump meeting. Although the atmosphere was very good, there were still real problems there," Shi said, referring to the Florida summit. "Maybe you can say that China-US relations have gone back to being normal. Trump has no patience, and nobody can be surprised that he's pushed certain issues to the fore." • And, we all learned as children that "patience is a virtue," but when that wise saying is applied to a rogue regime hell-bent on being capable of launching nuclear weapons to hit the West Coast of the United States, China must understand that patience has its limits.