Well, well, well…. Against the backdrop of everything we have been discussing about the nature of the U.S. – China – North Korea geopolitics; and considering the current position of all the players; THIS is a very interesting development:
BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit North Korea for two days from Thursday, state media in both countries reported on Monday, making him the first Chinese leader to visit in 14 years.
Neighboring China is reclusive North Korea’s only major ally, and the visit comes amid renewed tensions between the United States and North Korea over efforts to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons.
“Both sides will exchange views on the (Korean) peninsula situation, and push for new progress in the political resolution of the peninsula issue,” China’s official broadcaster CCTV said in a lengthy report that led the evening news. (read more)
The possibility here is one most CTH readers will immediately recognize. Is this the predictable face-saving approach Chairman Xi Jinping has selected?
For two-and-a-half years U.S. President Trump has been working on two connected objectives: (1) removing the threat posed by North Korea by severing the ability of Beijing to use the proxy province as a weapon (Kim is hostage to China); and (2) deconstructing the growing economic influence of China.
Both issues are directly connected to national security; and both issues are being approached by President Trump through the use of economic leverage to achieve national security results.
At first blush, there’s always a possibility of Chairman Xi going to see Chairman Kim in dragon mode… looking for a way to weaponize the DPRK despite the budding relationship between Chairman Kim (hostage) and U.S. President Donald Trump. However, that dragon perspective is blunted by the open media indications that the talks are centered around denuclearization. So that puts more weight on the second possibility.
The second possibility, the more optimistic possibility, is that we have finally reached that point in the U.S. -vs- China economic confrontation where Chairman Xi is now facing defeat and attempting to save face, and gain a better economic outcome, by releasing his hostage. This would be an incredible, almost unfathomable, win for President Trump; and an astounding visible affirmation that the year’s long strategy has been successful.
When we began watching this journey in 2017, there were indications President Trump was working specifically to create an outcome of a hostage release. And in the years that have followed there have been multiple highly-nuanced indications of the strategy Trump was following. This visit by Chairman Xi to North Korea in advance of the G20 summit has all the indications of this could very well be the culmination; ending exactly where President Trump has intended. As we noted in this graphic two years ago:
Caution is the word of the day. After all, this is the cunning and duplicitous China we are talking about here…. they have a history of using deceit and stall tactics to achieve victory. However, President Trump has shown he is well aware of what lies behind the panda mask.
That said, it’s worth watching very closely now to see the details of the G20 and whether Xi and Trump actually meet.
Beijing has announced Chairman Xi and South Korean President Moon Jae-in are scheduled for a meeting…. and we know on the issue of DPRK hostage release Chairman Xi will need to save face very carefully.
One way for Xi to avoid the appearance of acquiescence to Trump would be for him and Beijing to place the victory at the feet of Moon Jae-in instead of President Trump. I would almost guarantee, if indeed Xi is now giving up his hostage, China will position themselves as magnanimous panda and South Korea as the beneficiary.
“Peace is the Prize” ~ Donald Trump
Ultimately, I don’t think President Trump really cares about who gets credit for the victory and hostage release of Chairman Kim. The world will know, though the media may not assign, the victory is only because President Trump has outwitted Chairman Xi and his communist regime…. and Trump did that though strategic economic pressure.
We should be able to get some indications from public and media discussion ahead of the G20 summit in Japan this month, as to how -specifically- the hostage release will take place; and/or the terms and conditions within that release. Will Chairman Xi meet with President Trump?
…or will Xi tell Kim (or an emissary) to inform Trump there will be no meeting, but the face-saving terms and reasons are understood by all the principals.
Lastly, as it relates to the continued U.S. -vs- China trade and economic confrontation, if Chairman Xi expects POTUS Trump to retreat from the massive geopolitical leverage he has created that won’t happen.
President Trump has been openly, albeit with coded messages, telling the world North Korea is no longer a threat. The secondary purpose of making those statements is to blunt the value of Xi giving up his hostage. In essence, Trump has been telling Beijing: it’s a victory already achieved, so magnanimous panda isn’t providing Trump anything of measurable value.
Remember, two connected objectives: (1) removing the threat posed by North Korea by severing the ability of Beijing to use the proxy province as a weapon; and (2) deconstructing the growing economic influence of China. With #1 achieved, President Trump still fully intends to get #2. Heck, Trump has spent 30-years openly advocating for the principle of restoring American wealth. That means the economic pressure will continue until Beijing is defeated.