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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on April 6)

All Headlines 07:24 April 06, 2017

Be you, Mr. Trump:
'Out-of-box' approach on NK to trump Xi

Pundits have given long odds against U.S. President Donald Trump in his summit with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. They stack Xi's ample experience against Trump's absence of it.

But this shouldn't force President Trump to alter his 'Art of the Deal' business approach in the Mar-a-Largo meeting. If he gives up on it and adopts a strategy that takes him out of his element, it would carry a bigger risk of failure.

It is only natural that he should apply his unique style to the issue of North Korea, the key issue of the summit. He dared China to resolve it or the U.S. will deal with it alone. This is the right first move to put pressure on Xi.

Now, Trump should preempt Xi further when the two meet.

Xi would likely expect the status quo, either believing that the U.S. will rely on its old playbook that is full of half-hearted attempts and failures or trying to distract him with gifts such as large-scale imports.

Trump had better understand that settling for Xi's gifts would be tantamount to giving him permission to misbehave until they meet again. China and the North feel as tight as 'lips and teeth' _ becoming vulnerable without the help of the other.

That's why Beijing has kept calling for calmness when the North fires long-range missiles and detonates nuclear devices, even though this policy of extreme tolerance helps the North perfect its weapons of mass destruction. The failure to see this China-North Korea nexus and act to break it is also responsible for the collapse of the six-party talks aimed at separating the North from its weapons of mass destruction.

Then, what would be an alternative for Trump to take to stop the North from becoming a bigger threat and keep China in check?

First, it requires the breaking-up of the current frame in which Beijing and Pyongyang close ranks to form a tight defensive format against the U.S. This is where Trump can put his unconventional approach to its best use. He can offer Xi to go easy on the sanctions-oriented policy toward its ally and propose holistic talks to bring about lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.

The caveat is that China should be held responsible for any more provocative acts by the North in the lead-up to the start of such talks. This alone could make Beijing stop making its lame excuse _ its hands are tied.

The holistic agenda should be bold enough to entice China and the North, not ruling out the establishment of an inter-Korean permanent peace regime and recognition of the North as a nuclear state. Both have its pitfalls: the first can lead to the North's demand for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea, while the second could trigger a domino effect of nuclear armament among aspiring nations. Bringing the North's armament to a standstill and keeping China busy can buy more time for Trump to figure out a more fundamental solution.
(END)

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