Disappointment in BeijingFollowing U.S. President Donald Trump’s trips to Japan and Seoul, a summit between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping ended in Beijing on Thursday. On the thorny North Korean nuclear issue, however, we have some regrets. Despite both leaders’ agreement to put pressure on the North to dissuade it from making additional nuclear and missile provocations, they failed to deliver a strong message to Pyongyang in a joint press conference.
The leaders did not show signs of friction over the nuclear issue. But there was no “deal” either between both heads of state. In a press conference after the summit, Trump said that he and Xi agreed to not repeat their past mistakes, quoting what Trump said during his speech Wednesday at the National Assembly in Seoul. Trump also stressed that if both leaders join hands, North Korea can be liberated. Xi backed Trump’s remarks by vowing to realize denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and respect the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The reason why we are disappointed even after the two leaders’ reaffirmation of their will to achieve denuclearization is that Xi simply reiterated the importance of addressing the issue through dialogue. He said China will strictly implement UN sanctions on North Korea while trying to solve the nuclear problem through talks. That is no different from his original position on the issue.
Trump once again urged China to put substantial economic pressure on North Korea, but he was softer than in his address in Seoul. In Wednesday’s speech, he said that North Korea is trying to take South Korea hostage with its nuclear weapons and that this is a critical mistake. He also urged Beijing to sever its trade and technological ties with Pyongyang.
China appears to have chosen to circumvent the nuclear dilemma by making a hefty promise of investments in the United States. Beijing was able to kill two birds at the same time: It could evade Uncle Sam’s call for pressure on North Korea in exchange for striking a whopping $250 billion contract with U.S. industries. On Trump’s part, that’s a bonus on top of his similar feats in Seoul and Tokyo of receiving promises of massive investments and U.S. arms purchases. That will benefit the Republican Party.
Unless Trump and Xi remove the root of the conflict once and for all, disaster could ensue. We hope their agreement goes beyond rhetoric. The international community also must tighten their sanctions on Pyongyang. Our government, too, must push forward its North Korea policy if it wants to earn trust from other countries.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 10, Page 34