Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Mr. Kim Goes to Beijing

As noted on this blog, the Trump administration’s diplomatic breakthrough with North Korea has been orchestrated by Chinese president Xi Jinping. Until now it was happening behind the scenes, but yesterday the relationship became center stage when Kim Jong-un made a visit to Beijing and was prominently photographed with President Xi. The two leaders stated clearly that upcoming negotiations between the United States and North Korea would focus on denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.

Kim’s initial outreach to South Korea involved negotiations over his nation’s participation in the Winter Olympic Games. North Korea did participate and did send propaganda minister and Kim’s sister to the games. The point was clear: Kim needed to show that he was in charge and that he was not being pushed around by anyone, especially by the Chinese president.

Having established his leadership role, Kim could reach out to President Trump. One recalls that anti-Trump commentators were appalled that Trump seemed to have decided to accept the invitation-- delivered by South Korean diplomats-- without consulting with his foreign policy team. Apparently, more thought went into the decision than we know about. Apparently, it was orchestrated through backchannel communications with President Xi. And of course, the leaders of the Trump foreign policy team, Tillerson and McMaster are on their way out.

Surely, the Trump administration maximum pressure policy mattered, but the meetings and the relationship between Trump and Xi Jinping mattered more. You noticed that when Kim requested a meeting and Trump accepted, our president made clear that he credited Xi with arranging it. After Trump’s visit to Beijing last year, the Chinese government sent envoys to North Korea. We do not know what they said, but we can assume that they made clear that the Chinese government had run out of patience with the obstreperous boy leader. And China also signed on to the United Nations sanctions regime, thus, as reported in the Wall Street Journal, crippling that nation's economy.

One also notes that the Chinese government publicly briefed President Trump about the meeting.

Yesterday, Kim Jong-un was rewarded for his more conciliatory attitude. When Xi Jinping received him formally in Beijing, he was giving Kim face. He was elevating his standing in the world, but was also letting the world know that China was standing behind him. That means, in diplospeak, that Xi has offered Kim protection. He is guaranteeing the continuation of his regime and is assuring Kim that he will not end up like Col. Qaddhafi. The public ceremony means that Xi means what he says.

One suspects that this will make the negotiations with President Trump more constructive. One also suspects that Kim Jong-un will begin to institute economic policies that can raise his country into a more prosperous and functional nation. Perhaps Xi invited him to become North Korea’s Deng Xiaoping.

At a time when bands of hysterical ninnies are running around screaming that, what the with arrival of John Bolton as National Security Adviser, a nuclear holocaust is pending, we ought to ignore these absurd rants and understand that the Trump administration has been advancing its goal of solving the problem of Kim’s nuclear weapons diplomatically.

1 comment:

Sam L. said...

Xi told Kim to straighten up and fly right, or Xi would break Kim's rice bowl, I suspect.