China’s diplomatic team lashed out at U.S. efforts to get them to turn up the heat on Kim Jong Un, saying they didn’t start this trouble and shouldn’t be expected to solve it by themselves. What they are really saying is that there is not much more they can do without help.
When Geng Shuang, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry was asked about the status of increased pressure on the rogue nation, he basically said it’s not their problem. “Recently, certain people, talking about the Korean peninsula nuclear issue, have been exaggerating and giving prominence to the so-called ‘China responsibility theory. I think this either shows lack of a full, correct knowledge of the issue, or there are ulterior motives for it, trying to shift responsibility.”
Several political analysts say China has been trying to send a different message and we have not been hearing it. “One thing we’re seeing is a tactical adjustment on Beijing’s part to Trump,” said John Delury, associate professor of Chinese studies at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea. “There’s a kind of game here where Beijing is playing along to a certain extent, almost to call Trump’s bluff, and to get the Americans to recognize they have the key in their hand to unlock the problem.”
That key, Delury says is not military. “When you start to look carefully at the military options, they are horrific, just given the economic vulnerabilities of everyone in this neighborhood,” he said. “The key the U.S. has is diplomacy.”
President Trump met with Xi Jinping this weekend at the G20 summit, where he kept the meeting light and stayed away from some of the background issues. Trade, human rights and arms sales to Taiwan were shifted to the side in order to focus on the most crucial issue, North Korea. The two discussed military and security cooperation with China’s leader re-affirming the nation’s position that it wants the Korean peninsula to be nuclear free while keeping stability and peace.
Trump invited China to participate in next years Pacific Rim exercises to help calm Jinping’s concern that U.S. military war games conducted jointly with Japan and South Korea was adding to tension in the region.
Today’s statement may be China’s way of officially saying they have done all they are able to do as far as sanctions are concerned and telling us that the ball is in our court. This is not an unexpected development for the deep thinkers in Washington. North Korea’s missile program is at such an advanced stage that sanctions will not prevent the gathering of needed materials and technology.
There is “hope” for a diplomatic solution according to Robert L. Gallucci, Professor of Diplomacy at Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. By following a pattern similar to one that worked with North Korea in the past.
In 1994 negotiators convinced the country to stop producing plutonium that would have led to the production of about 100 nuclear bombs per year. The deal eventually fell apart in 2002, but the core of the issue then is the same as it is now. Kim Jong Un is afraid of being replaced. He wants his nukes and missiles to prevent that.
“The North Koreans have said, you did it with the Iraqis, you did it with the Libyans, and we don’t want you doing it to us. So we’re going to have nuclear weapons, so you can’t do regime change, OK? So the question is, what other than nuclear weapons could give them the confidence? What gave them the confidence in ’94?” The answer was they thought they were getting a normalized relationship politically with the U.S.” which never happened.
The only problem now is the catch-22 issue of human rights.
“The only way… to have a negotiation that doesn’t look like past failed negotiations is to give the North Koreans something that would give them the assurance that they didn’t have to worry about us changing their regime. And the only thing that would do that would be a new relationship with the United States in which there was not a situation of hostility. And the only way to do that is to have regime change.”
“This does not mean North Korean turns into a Jeffersonian democracy, OK? I mean, we have relations with countries whose human rights records aren’t, let’s say, ideal. I mean, think Saudi Arabia.”
Gallucci’s prescription is to start talking about negotiations without any preconditions. Once the ball gets rolling with a basic dialog, negotiations can start with one precondition already a given. The nuclear weapons program must stop now.
“We are not going to get into a long-term negotiation with the DPRK unless their nuclear weapons program is on the table, because if we do that and their nuclear weapons program is not on the table, then we have just legitimized their nuclear weapons program. We have just then told Japan and South Korea that we appreciate them committing themselves not to have nuclear weapons while we get into a negotiation with their archenemy on how they can keep their nuclear weapons.”
The way to get them to the table is to crank up sanctions to a much higher level and practically cut off foreign exchange and hit hard with cyber offenses. Once we have Kim’s full attention and are cutting into China’s trade interests, the elites of the regime not happy with the man at the top can be persuaded to make regime change “easier.” Information needs to be flooded into the country targeting the elites to create change from within. At that point, Kim will either come to the table and start to talk rationally or his own guards will kill him before they starve.