Trump Cancels, China Wins

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Regardless of whether Trump’s plan was actually to start with a demand for full denuclearization and then retreat to something more credible, the question now is what the administration might do to achieve denuclearization – or even regime change – in the absence of a summit. It remains to be seen how America’s core strategic partners in the region will respond. Japan and South Korea both feel buffeted, bypassed, and ignored by Trump’s impulsive decision-making. Japan, in particular, has come to fear US actions more than North Korean moves. It doesn’t help that the Trump administration has refused to grant Japanese steelmakers exemptions from its threatened tariffs.
Where does this all lead? In response to Trump’s cancellation of the summit, North Korea, sensing that it controls the moral high ground, has expressed its continued openness to talks, leading Trump to muse confusingly about re-instating the meeting. But the real question is how China will respond.
Last year, China acceded to US pressure to tighten economic controls on its North Korean client, proving that it is willing to do its part to preserve regional stability. More recently, it hosted Kim twice in the space of less than two months. These were Kim’s first trips abroad as North Korean leader, and they showed that he was willing to pay obeisance to Chinese President Xi Jinping, and to seek Xi’s diplomatic backing.
Now that Trump has canceled the summit, the Chinese will see little reason to maintain pressure on North Korea. In fact, Trump has given China an enviable choice: it can use its leverage with North Korea as a bargaining chip in ongoing trade negotiations with the US, or it can restore trade and other economic relations with North Korea to remind Kim that he is wholly dependent on China.
Either way, with both the European Union and Japan bristling at the Trump administration’s aggressive moves on trade, North Korea, and the Iran nuclear deal, there is not much global pressure on China to bend to US demands. China’s biggest worry now is that the US will pursue military strikes against North Korea — though, as things stand, that remains a remote possibility.
Anything short of a military confrontation on the Korean Peninsula counts as a strategic win for China. In addition to regaining a tributary ally, the country has shown that it can be a force for peace and stability. Now, anything it does in the region will look reasonable compared to US actions. The decline of US influence, and the strengthening of China’s strategic clout, continues unabated. Thanks to Trump, that process has just been accelerated.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2016.
www.project-syndicate.org

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A warsame

Published by A Warsame is senior Editor and managing Director of Mareeg Media Whatup :+447737886245
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