Last week Wall Street focused on what the Trump-Xi summit would mean for the China trade war, the global economy and the Dow Jones. But the high-stakes meeting turned out to be a warm-up act. President Donald Trump’s real diplomatic flourish came as he crossed into the DMZ to shake hands with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.
Investors are still trying to discern whether China trade talks will bear fruit after Trump’s big concession to Chinese President Xi Jinping. In addition to holding off on further tariffs, Trump said he would ease a ban on American technology sales to Chinese telecom equipment giant Huawei. Beijing appeared to give up little or nothing, and shows no sign of caving to Trump’s demands.
That raises the risk of another sudden collapse of China trade talks and a further escalation of tariffs. If that happens, both the U.S. economy and Dow Jones look vulnerable, even as the Dow hit record highs Wednesday.
But it may make sense to look at the China trade war through the prism of Trump’s push for a North Korea breakthrough. It’s a good bet that Trump-Kim DMZ meeting wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t gotten China trade talks back on track.
Now Trump is pushing for a White House visit and reportedly wants North Korea to agree to substantially freeze nuclear weapons capabilities. As long as Trump sees Beijing as a “strategic partner” reining in North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, further escalation of the China trade war seems unlikely.
The relationship between North Korea and China is complex. But China has significant economic ties with North Korea, has often taken Pyongyang’s side against harsh international sanctions and has been seen as able to influence its behavior. International relations experts also say that Beijing has long used its role in mediating North Korea’s threat as a buffer against criticism by the West.
Trump has previously discussed China’s North Korea ties as a consideration in the U.S.-China trade dispute. While that hasn’t averted a major trade conflict, this past weekend isn’t the only time North Korea nuclear issue and China trade war have seemed to follow a parallel path.
Last December, Trump and Xi agreed to their first trade cease-fire. Then came Trump’s February summit with the North Korean leader in Hanoi. Trump walked away from that meeting, putting talks on ice. In May, China trade talks also broke down as Trump lost patience with Beijing for backtracking on commitments. On May 5, Trump threatened to escalate tariffs. Four days later, North Korea fired off short-range missiles in an implicit challenge to the U.S.
The odds of a China trade deal look pretty low, given the depth of the differences separating the two sides. The U.S. insists that China write new laws resolving complaints over theft of intellectual property, forced technology transfers, currency manipulation, access to Chinese markets and state subsidies. Even then, the U.S. wants Trump tariffs to remain in force, with some falling away as Beijing clears these benchmarks. China has refused all of these demands as humiliating and a violation of its sovereignty.
Trump may be losing hope for a huge China trade deal, but he seems to think a North Korean nuclear deal could be in reach. Trump may even see a certain logic in letting a North Korea deal come first. If Beijing really is a “strategic partner,” as Trump said in a Saturday press conference, Chinese leaders will encourage North Korea to complete a nuclear deal with him. If that happened, Trump might be more trusting of China to abide by any trade agreement, rather than keeping tariffs in place until Beijing proves it will keep its word.
By Aaron Kliegman • Washington Free Beacon
Hopes were high in Hanoi, Vietnam, this week, as President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un smiled and shook hands, ready for their second summit. Perhaps the United States and North Korea would finally reach a deal to denuclearize the latter, paving the way for a more benign, fruitful relationship between the two countries. Alas, it was not meant to be. Trump and Kim ended their summit on Thursday after failing to agree on any steps to curb North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program. But while the talks collapsed—at least for the moment—people should not view the result as a failure. Indeed, Trump should be commended for walking away from a bad deal.
Many observers thought Trump would be so desperate for a deal that he would agree to almost any terms, succumbing to dreams of diplomatic greatness. They watched Trump call Kim his “friend” and worried the president was too trusting. Perhaps Kim felt this way, too, hence his widely one-sided proposal (more on that in a moment). Ultimately, however, Trump did not do what his critics feared.
“I am never afraid to walk from a deal,” Trump told reporters after the summit ended. “Sometimes you have to walk.”
Lifting sanctions on North Korea seemed to be the main roadblock to further negotiations. According to Trump, Kim insisted that all of the United Nations’s sanctions imposed on Pyongyang be lifted in exchange for dismantling the Yongbyon nuclear facility, the site of a reactor and plutonium-reprocessing plant and a central piece of the North’s weapons program.
“It was about the sanctions,” Trump said. “Basically they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, but we couldn’t do that.”
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho later disputed Trump’s account of what happened, saying his country asked for the removal of 5 of the 11 sets of sanctions imposed by the U.N., not all of them.
“We proposed to the United States to lift five sanctions—which [were] adopted between 2016 and 2017 and impede the civilian economy and the livelihood of our people—among 11 U.N. sanctions resolutions all together,” Ri said, according to a translation of his remarks.
Even if Ri’s account is accurate, Trump was right to reject the proposal. That North Korea only asked for a fraction of the U.N. resolutions can be misleading; the five that North Korea put on the table comprise most of the international pressure through sanctions on Pyongyang. Trump may have not been literally accurate about all sanctions, but he was right for all intents and purposes. And in exchange, the North would only destroy one nuclear site. What about the other sites in North Korea? And what about inspecting them? Like Iran during negotiations over its nuclear program, North Korea seems to want all the benefits without any of the costs: to obtain relief from sanctions while preserving the ability to build nuclear weapons. Only this time, Trump did not grant an adversary its wish—at least for now.
One does not need an MBA from an elite university to realize that making major concessions up front in a negotiation takes away leverage for later. If Trump agreed to lift most sanctions right away in exchange for less extensive nuclear concessions, then the United States would be in a far weaker position to act against North Korea in the future if necessary. What if North Korea cheats? What leverage would the United States have? Re-imposing sanctions at the U.N. does not happen with a snap of the fingers. Considering all North Korea has done is lie to the international community about its nuclear program, Pyongyang cheating is an outcome all too likely.
The United States should not provide North Korea any sanctions relief for something it has repeatedly promised to do. More generally, the United States should not lift any sanctions until North Korea has demonstrated beyond doubt that it has taken major steps to curb its nuclear program. Any agreement that falls short of this standard is not worth the paper on which it is written.
Trump’s decision to walk away from Kim’s proposal is a net positive not only for his policy toward North Korea, but also toward Iran. Had Trump agreed to North Korea’s terms, the Islamic Republic would have seen the United States make significant concessions while still allowing North Korea to keep its nuclear arsenal. Iran would be given greater incentive to undermine American sanctions and still seek nuclear weapons, believing that, once it gets the bomb, Washington will not have the will to do anything meaningful about it.
After the Hanoi Summit, the question is what happens next. Fortunately, the United States and North Korea are still talking, so high-level negotiations may resume at a later date. Whether they do or not, Trump and his advisers should consider one hitch that few people want to acknowledge, a hitch that explains why this summit failed and why future summits will likely fail: the United States wants North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, and North Korea does not want to give them up. That basic point is the great obstacle to denuclearization. And unless it changes, do not bet on any grand diplomatic bargains.
by Megan G. Opera • The Federalist
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sent shockwaves through the foreign policy establishment this week when he suggested that the United States is prepared, for the first time, to come to the negotiating table with North Korea without any preconditions or promises from Pyongyang that it would halt, even if just temporarily, its nuclear program.
Tillerson’s startling comments, which mark a major departure from U.S. policy and part significantly with President Trump’s views on the North Korea crisis, signal that Pyongyang is truly on the cusp of having a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), and that a military conflict might be fast approaching.
On Monday, an analysis was released by “38 North,” a U.S. website specializing in North Korea, indicating Pyongyang may be getting ready to test another nuclear weapon. The country’s last test, in early September, was estimated to have been 17 times more powerful than the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.
The September test resulted in a fresh round of international sanctions, which, apparently, have done nothing to deter the hermit kingdom from moving ahead apace with its nuclear program. North Korea is similarly catapulting forward with its ICBM program, making steady progress and demonstrating this year that it now has the capability to reach the entire continental United States.
China Is Making Contingency Plans Continue reading
About 40 years ago, Ronald Reagan and U.S. Senator Malcolm Wallop shared breakfast at U.S. Senator Paul Laxalt’s ranch. Virtually no one knew that this meeting took place or understood how important it would be to America’s security. As friends shared breakfast, Wallop explained the need for a robust missile defense — including developing a space-based defensive system. Once elected to office, President Reagan made it a national goal to develop effective high-tech defenses against missile attacks. That policy objective was an important factor in the U.S. winning the Cold War. Simply stated, even before missile defense was able to shoot down a missile, it was helping America defeat the Soviets.
During most of the last decade, missile defense was de-emphasized. It was a self-evidently foolish policy decision even though some offered misguided defenses of it. But now, given recent news from North Korea, few could argue that the Obama Administration’s disdain for missile defense has served America’s interests. Kim Jong Un has pushed North Korea’s nuclear program to develop nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles that can reach our West Coast. Pyongyang intends to threaten not just the West Coast, but all of America. Iran is headed in the same dangerous direction as North Korea. Continue reading
Since 1950, when North Korea launched its invasion against the south, the United Nations Security Council had been in a permanent diplomatic warfare against Pyongyang. Out of the twenty two resolutions, seventeen were adopted through the 1990s and the almost two decades of the 2000s. In particular, eight resolutions between January 2013, and June 2017, condemning North Korea’s tests of nuclear weapons, were unanimously approved by the Security Council. The North Korean despot, Kim Jong-un, has not recognized the right of the Security Council to sanction his regime for its serial violations of international law. For decades, the international community has alternated between economic pressure and diplomatic dialogue, without any noticeable success. Most recently, the Trump Administration and Congress have floated the option of military action, coupled with regime change, and possible unification ofthe two Koreas.
Because of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities and its arsenal of heavy artillery aimed at the heavily populated Seoul region, there is no question that the entire situation in the Korean peninsula is an extremely complicated one. Continue reading
Throughout its troubled history, the world has never quite witnessed anything like the North Korean regime of absolute fear and Kim Jong Un’s sick domestic and foreign policy reactions to it. The story of the Kim dynasty, reverentially called the Mount Paektu Bloodline, entails the most destructive totalitarianism of the founder Kim Il-sung, his son, Kim Jong-il, and his grandson, Kim Jong-un. Assuming power with the political and military assistance of the Soviet Union over the northern part of the divided Korean peninsula in 1948, Kim Il-sung quickly established his cult of personality, modeled after his mentor Josif Vissarionovich Stalin. Following the failed invasion of the south he enunciated his version of absolute leadership called Suryong and its ideological justification called Juche, an archaic version of national self-reliance, that became the founding political, economic, and cultural policy of North Korea.
His grandson, Kim Jong-un became North Korea’s Supreme Leader on December 29, 2011. In 2013, Paragraph 10 of Article 2 of the amended constitution, officially known as the Ten Fundamental Principles of the Korean Workers’ Party, enshrined the hereditary principle of the Kim family’s totalitarianism by stating that the party must be guided and the revolutionmust be led “eternally” by the “Paektu Bloodline.” Continue reading
by Bill Gertz • Washington Free Beacon
The United States faces a growing threat of ballistic and cruise missiles from China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, according to a military intelligence report.
“Ballistic and cruise missiles present a significant threat to U.S. and allied forces overseas, and to the United States and its territories,” states the latest report by the National Air and Space Intelligence Center in Ohio.
The report warns that both China and Russia are expanding their force of strategic nuclear missiles with new multi-warhead weapons.
North Korea now has three intercontinental-range missiles and is moving ahead with a submarine-launched ballistic missile. Continue reading
by Peter Roff • Townhall
Since coming to office South Korean President Moon Jae-in has moved quickly to put the past behind him. Politically, this is wise. His countrymen are tired of the byzantine games and corruption that for decades influenced the system of government and drove his predecessor from office.
His need to put his country’s house in order defies ideological concerns. He faces daunting security threats, especially from the North, but also a restless and dissatisfied people hungry for change. He leads an Asian tiger whose economic power is being challenged and which desperately needs to improve its trade relations with the West.
U.S. President Donald Trump is making the most of South Korea’s internal turmoil to bolster the U.S. efforts to exert its political and economic influence in Korea. Just a week before the special election that brought President Moon to power, Trump summed up the existing free trade agreement with South Korea as “horrible” and vowed to renegotiate the pact. Continue reading
by Choe Sang-Huna • New York Times
South Korea has determined that North Korea is capable of mounting a nuclear warhead on its medium-range Rodong ballistic missile, which could reach all of South Korea and most of Japan, a senior government official said on Tuesday.
The government’s assessment, shared in a background briefing with foreign news media representatives in Seoul, followed a recent claim by North Korea that it had “standardized” nuclear warheads small enough to be carried by ballistic missiles. South Korean officials, like their American counterparts, have said that the North has made progress in miniaturizing nuclear warheads, but have been reluctant to elaborate.
But after four recent nuclear tests by the North, the latest on Jan. 6, some nongovernmental analysts in South Korea have said that they believe the North has learned how to fit its medium-range Rodong missile with nuclear warheads. The senior government official echoed that assessment, but did not provide any evidence of how the government has made its determination. Continue reading
By Ari Yashar • Israel National News
US intelligence officials revealed that during the ongoing Iran nuclear negotiations, North Korea has provided several shipments of advanced missile components to the Islamic regime in violation of UN sanctions – and the US hid the violations from the UN.
The officials, who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon on Wednesday on condition of anonymity, said more than two shipments of missile parts since last September have been monitored by the US going from North Korea to Iran.
One official detailed that the components included large diameter engines, which could be used to build a long-range missile system, potentially capable of bearing a nuclear warhead. Continue reading
By Shawn Macomber
Ever wonder why the official International Criminal Court logo has a set of scales but no equivalent of the blindfolded “Lady Justice”? Kim Jong-un doesn’t — he and the rest of the fanatical gangsters running the nationwide gulag that is now the hermit kingdom understand they will get a free pass from rent-seeking internationalists who are more interested in the power and prestige of the Court than any unbiased pursuit of justice.
by Travis Korson • Townhall
Over the last few days, North Korean actions that ultimately scuttled the release of Sony Picture Entertainment’s release of “The Interview” have dominated the headlines.
To date the current national security leadership has been vague in describing a formal American response to the attack. Coupled with Sony’s ultimate decision to not release the film publicly, Kim Jong-un is likely feeling emboldened. This may very well mean an expansion of their cyber program, a cause for serious alarm. Even more concerning may be what a nuclear missile program looks like in a newly emboldened North Korea.
Sanctions have proven unsuccessful to date in deterring bad behavior by the North Koreans and countless negotiations have failed to make the country a more responsible actor in the international community. History has proven that the ability to neutralize threats to the homeland, and to project American power in the Asia-Pacific region is the only things this regime recognizes. Continue reading
In the May-June issue of the National Interest, Doug Bandow of the CATO Institute calls for the withdrawal of American forces from the Republic of Korea, continuing a career of attempting to gut America’s security cooperation with the Republic of Korea.
Articles by Bandow, for example, in 1996, 1998, 2010, 2011, among others, repeatedly called for the complete withdrawal of American forces from Korea. Some more recent ones put forward the amazingly bizarre idea that only by withdrawing our military forces from the Republic of Korea would Pyongyang get rid of its nuclear weapons. Continue reading
For President Obama, caution in the defense of liberty is no vice, and militarism in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.
Obama didn’t come to Asia to paraphrase Barry Goldwater’s acceptance speech at the 1964 Republican National Convention. But he did after growing frustrated with recent editorial criticism portraying his foreign policy as weak and naive.
It started in Seoul, where Obama faced a second day of questions from reporters in Japan and South Korea about his commitment to defend these allies in the face of Chinese and North Korean military muscle-flexing. Continue reading
Sign the Petition to keep the Internet in American hands and protected by the First Amendment. We don’t need dictators governing the Internet! Continue reading