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Why Trump is blaming China for lack of progress with North Korea

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trump kim singapore
North
Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump during
their summit in Singapore on June 12, 2018.

Kevin Lim/The Strait
Times/Handout/Getty


  • Earlier this week, President Donald Trump abruptly
    canceled secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s trip to North
    Korea.
  • Trump cited China’s “tremendous pressure” against North
    Korea as a factor in the derailed negotiations with
    Pyongyang.
  • But several reports indicated Trump may have agreed to
    an off-the-cuff, verbal contract with North Korean leader Kim
    Jong Un to formally end the Korean War.
  • The US has insisted that such a move must be
    preconditioned by steps toward denuclearization.
  • Experts say the Trump administration is to blame for
    apparent confusion, and that it is scapegoating China for the
    state of US-North Korea relations.

North Korea’s “belligerent” letter to
President Donald Trump and the abrupt cancellation of secretary
of state Mike Pompeo’s trip to Pyongyang was all it took to throw
cold water on the peaceful overtures following the Singapore
summit in June.

But amid the diplomatic impasse, Trump publicized his “very good”
and “warm” relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and
found a scapegoat for the derailment of US-North Korean
relations: China.

In several tweets this week, Trump expressed his disappointment
with China, which he claimed to have exerted “tremendous
pressure” on North Korea in response to his ongoing trade war.
Trump stopped short of reigniting his fiery rhetoric; however,
and left open the possibility that the trade disputes may be
“resolved in time.”

“President Donald J. Trump feels strongly that North Korea is
under tremendous pressure from China because of our major trade
disputes with the Chinese Government,” Trump said in a tweet on
Wednesday.

“At the same time, we also know that China is providing North
Korea with considerable aid, including money, fuel, fertilizer
and various other commodities. This is not helpful!”


trump letter
President Donald receives
a letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, delivered by
senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol.

Shealah Craighead/White House

Broken promises?

Last week, Trump cited insufficient progress “with respect to the
denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” and suggested China was
partly to blame for his decision to scrap Pompeo’s meeting in
North Korea.

The proposed trip, the fourth for Pompeo, would have been Stephen
Biegun’s diplomatic debut as the new US envoy to Pyongyang.

Trump tweeted at the time: “Additionally, because of our much
tougher Trading stance with China, I do not believe they are
helping with the process of denuclearization as they once were
(despite the UN Sanctions which are in place).” 

Trump’s antagonistic stance on against China amid efforts to
achieve complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization
of North Korea was met with confusion amongst some experts.

But his remarks have also given credence to the theory, based on
several reports, that he may be making
up for over-delivering a “promise” to formally end the Korean
War.

Trump told Kim that he would sign a formal declaration to end the
Korean War during his summit in June,
according to a Vox report
citing two people familiar with the
discussions.

North Korean officials reportedly also believed Trump made the
same promise to Kim Yong Chol, the vice chairman of North Korea’s
ruling Workers’s Party Central Committee, during the North Korean
delegation’s visit to the White House in June.


Pompeo
Secretary
of state Mike Pompeo, secretary of defense James Mattis, and
national security adviser John Bolton.

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

‘Why don’t you call your president?’

For years, North Korea has called on the US to formally end the
Korean War and 68 years of hostility. But acting on this alleged
promise would be a significant conciliatory gesture, and would
also throw into doubt the necessity of stationing US troops in
South Korea — an outcome US military leaders like secretary of
defense James Mattis vehemently opposes.

That proposal was reiterated by North Korea’s propaganda outlets
in recent weeks. But North Korea’s insistence for the US to
declare peace was equally met by the US State Department’s
resolve for progress on the nuclear front, including a complete
disclosure on North Korea’s nuclear assets.

This impasse was on full display after Trump nixed Pompeo’s trip,
shortly after Kim Yong Chol sent a “belligerent” letter to
Pompeo, according to The Washington Post.

Pompeo’s attempts to pave the road for denuclearization were also
blocked during a meeting with Kim Yong Chol in July. North Korean
officials, despite their track record of making provocative
statements, reportedly pointed towards the Singapore declaration
and were adamant that Trump first put an “end to hostilities,”
according to a report by Stanford University East Asian Studies
lecturer Daniel Sneider.

As Pompeo continued to push for denuclearization, Kim Yong Chol
reportedly held up a cell phone and taunted, “why don’t you call
your president?,” according to Sneider, who affirmed his
confidence of his sources to Business Insider.

North Korea’s propaganda outlets, which are known to make
hyperbolic statements, also alluded to a pre-arranged agreement
and suggested the US made a “unilateral and gangster-like demand”
for denuclearization three weeks after the Singapore summit.

“The US side never mentioned the issue of establishing a peace
regime on the Korean peninsula which is essential for defusing
tension and preventing a war,” the Korean Central News Agency
said, according to North Korean news monitor KCNA Watch. “It took the
position that it would even backtrack on the issue it had agreed
on to end the status of war under certain conditions and
excuses.”


Trump on phone
President
Donald Trump.


White
House



The Chinese connection

The deadlocked negotiations and Trump’s recent tweetstorm has
puzzled foreign policy experts. China, one of North Korea’s
closest strategic and economic allies, begrudgingly agreed to the
United Nations’s sanctions against the regime following its
nuclear and missile tests in 2017.

But analysts say Beijing remains somewhat suspicious of North
Korea’s motives and continues to uphold international sanctions,
despite the State Department’s warnings that it observed a
“modest” easing of sanctions against Pyongyang.

“Although China does play a key role in enforcing existing
international sanctions designed to pressure North Korea and to
change its negotiating calculus, China is not to blame for the
Trump administration’s contradictory and inconsistent followup
from the Singapore summit,” Daryl Kimball, the executive director
of the Arms Control Association, said to Business
Insider.

“As a result, North Korea is digging in and resisting calls for
further dramatic steps on denuclearization,” Kimball added.


trump kim singapore
President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong
Un.

Getty

The joint-declaration statement from Singapore summit, which has
been criticized for being overly broad and vague, also left room
for confusion between the two countries.

“Trump and Pompeo also failed to reach written agreement Kim
Jong-un on definition and scope of ‘denuclearization,'” Kimball
said. “This creates risk of misunderstanding about what North
Korea must do.”

Mintaro Oba, a former State Department diplomat and a speech
writer for West Wing Writers, described Trump’s remarks as an
“unhinged rant disguised as a statement.”

“It’s true that North Korea is in a stronger position when China
is on its side diplomatically and is less committed to enforcing
sanctions,” Oba said to Business Insider. “But China is not the
deciding factor in North Korea’s behavior.”

“I think [Trump] is faulting China for US frustrations with North
Korea on denuclearization,” Oba added. “He is operating on a
mistaken belief that he can get leverage by linking US-China
trade issues and North Korea policy.”

China in turn responded to Trump’s claims and described it as
“irresponsible and absurd logic.”

“A lot of people, like me, feel that the US is first in the world
when it comes to twisting the truth, and irresponsible and absurd
logic,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said,
according to South China Morning Post.
“This logic is not easily understood by all.”

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