Trump Getting Played By China
Recent events have sparked hope in Asia about the denuclearization of North Korea, but a highly anticipated summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un may not ever happen after all. The reason may have more to do with China than Trump or Kim.
Trump's tough stance on trade with China has put a bitter taste in the mouths of the men who occupy China's highest offices. As Trump is showered with praise from his supporters and Republicans at home for making Kim Jong-Un heel and China whimper, China may have some tricks up its sleeve when it comes to diminishing Trump's foreign affairs prowess in order to wield more influence over the American president.
Just as North Korea began dismantling its nuclear facilities and inviting journalists to watch future deconstructions, right before the anticipated summit, things began to fall apart. Doubt was cast on the summit by both North Korea and Donald Trump for reasons involving joint military exercises in the Korean peninsula.
The annual exercises between the United States and South Korea were called a “provocation” by the North before the North postponed inter-Korean talks scheduled within the third week of May, before the anticipated June 12 summit in Singapore.
This could be a move designed by China, to favor China, disguised as an attempt by Kim Jong-Un to gain more concessions from the United States.
On March 26, Kim Jong-Un's secret, bulletproof train arrived in Beijing. The New York Times was among those who reported on the secret and rare foreign trip by the obscure and reclusive North Korean leader. There was nothing for journalists to report about the content or nature of the meeting and no details were disclosed by China or North Korean officials. The meeting was widely reported as a “secret meeting”.
Chinese president, Xi Jingping, and Kim Jong-Un met a second time on May 7 and 8, according to the Chinese foreign ministry. This second meeting was public and included a banquet and a stroll on a beach with photographers. The two countries used the occasion to show off their stronger ties and announce their will to cooperate.
On May 15, Kim Jong-Un postponed the inter-Korean talks and publicly cast doubt on the anticipated June 12 summit, blaming “provocation” by the South and United States following scheduled, joint military drills in the region.
On May 24, Donald Trump called off the June 12 summit. This was encouraged by John Bolton, Donald Trump's new National Security Advisor.
The military drills which irked North Korea, known as Max Thunder, began in 2009 between the United States and South Korea. The drills involve aircraft carriers, fighter jets and B-52 bombers, most based in Guam.
In April, South Korean and US officials confirmed that Kim Jong-Un had understood the continued need for Max Thunder and did not express any objections to the annual military exercises at the time.
Kim's position appeared to change following his meetings with Xi Jingping.
China has long objected to Max Thunder and suggested the drills be stopped. The drills operate East of the South China Sea and have long been speculated to simultaneously act as a buffer against Chinese aggression, particularly to protect Taiwan.
China has often encouraged the North Korean regime to put a moratorium on its nuclear program in order to compel an end to Max Thunder and Foal Eagle, another similar US-South Korea joint military exercise.
Officials in the Chinese government have periodically expressed concern over such military drills and viewed them as obstructions against Chinese interests in the region. Kim's meeting with Chinese officials may have altered the North Korean dictator's stance and resulted in the cancellation of the Trump/Kim summit.
Chinese officials may have used the Trump/Kim summit and their influence over North Korea to gain concessions that would have benefited China and Chinese interests in the region. Chinese officials may have also used Kim Jung-Un to hold sway over the Trump administration by putting Donald Trump's foreign policy legacy on the line in order to gain leverage in an escalating trade war.
Concerned by China's influence and manipulation of Kim Jung-Un in order to gain leverage over the Trump administration, John Bolton encouraged Donald Trump to cancel the anticipated summit.