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Mood of realism shown at U.S.-China summit meeting

Posted November. 10, 2017 09:00,   

Updated November. 10, 2017 09:21


Looking at the summit meeting held Thursday in Beijing between the leaders of the United States and China, we cannot help but realize the limited power we have in front of the superpowers that put self-interest first. During his short visit to Korea before heading to China, U.S. President Donald Trump made quite an impression to the Korean people. While addressing the National Assembly of Korea, he drew a stark contrast between the South and the North by mentioning "the Miracle on the Han" and calling the North "a hell that no person deserves." His speech raised our expectation that he could make a progress in resolving the crisis over North Korea's nuclear ambitions by persuading Chinese President Xi Jinping. But what we saw in their joint statement was rather disappointing.

As they had their meeting in the Great Hall of the People, the two leaders agreed to persist with the goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula and solving the issue through dialogue and consultation. But they put emphasis on different points. Trump called North Korea "a brutal regime" and claimed that "all responsible nations must join forces to isolate the brutal regime of North Korea, to deny it any form of support, supply, or acceptance” until the reckless regime gives up on its nuclear ambitions. On the other hand, Xi reiterated that he wants a "peaceful resolution through dialogue" and will "fully implement U.N. Security Council sanctions against North Korea." Xi's change of attitude is important as China holds the key to bringing any changes to North Korea.

To be sure, it is not fair to jump to the conclusion just by looking at the statement, as Trump and Xi spent the whole day together Thursday following the previous evening. The two leaders agreed to take a "stronger stance" on North Korea, but did not reveal the exact level of "stronger stance" and what measures will be taken. Before the summit, The New York Times reported, quoting a White House official, that the Trump administration is pressing China to cut off oil shipments, close down North Korean bank accounts in China, and send home tens of thousands of North Koreans working in China. Xi's promise of "stronger stance" should not stop at empty rhetoric.

Trump's change of attitude in China is understandable if you take a closer look at the ceremony held at the same place right after the summit meeting for U.S. and Chinese businessmen. At the ceremony, which was attended by Trump and Xi, business deals totaled 253.5 billion U.S. dollars (around 283 trillion won) have been signed in front of Trump. It is not difficult to assume that Trump, pro-business president, has been satisfied with the astronomical money and job creation the deals would bring about.

It is not likely that maximum level of pressure will be put on North Korea sooner or later to make the regime give up on its nuclear ambitions although it remains to be seen what follow-up measures will be taken by the United States and China. Even though the UN Security Council imposes new sanctions agreed by China on Pyongyang, only one third of its oil import and trade volume will be cut. It is high time that we join forces and confirm‎ our determination so that resolution of the North Korean issue does not lose its way in the face of money and power games and nationalism by major powers of the United States, China and Japan. More than anything else, Trump has stronger will than any other U.S. presidents to address the crisis over North Korea's nuclear ambitions. South Korea will regret it for a long time if it misses this chance.