PEKING – President Donald Trump's abrupt withdrawal from his planned North Korea summit presents China with the challenge of showing that it can steer the North towards easing tensions over its nuclear program. But despite the recent warming of relations, Beijing's influence on its neighbor could be exaggerated.
Trump's cancellation of the June 12 meeting in Singapore with Kim Jong Un seems to make the North Korean leaders more dependent on China. Kim had been drinking tea only weeks ago and strolled through the maritime park in Dalian Harbor with Chinese President Xi Jinping on a surprise trip to China that seemed to project the proximity of Beijing to the north. One chance to hold a summit made Kim's trip to China responsible for causing the North Korean leader an unwelcome "change of attitude" shared by some observers. "The winner at this moment is Chinese President Xi Jinping," said Marineadmiral James Stavridis, dean of the Fletcher School of Law and diplomacy at Tufts University, in a commentary.
But Trump could have misjudged Kim's attitude and China's role, said Cheng Xiaohe, an expert at the International Studies School of Renmin University in Beijing.
"China is not a disturbing element," Cheng said. He said Xi's meeting with Kim was intended to strengthen the inexperienced and isolated North Korean leadership in dealing with complex diplomacy.
Beijing called on the US and North Korea on Friday to "meet halfway and support one another." According to hints that China was responsible for the cancellation of the summit, the State Department said that others accuse China instead
Trump seems to believe China is the key to reach North Korea The negotiating table, but that could be an overestimate, said John Delury, a North Korea expert at Yonsei University in Seoul.
"China can not tell Kim Jong Un what to do," said Delury. "Kim has really kept a distance from China for six years, he will not be her running dog."
China may have asked Kim to suspend US South Korean military exercises in talks with Trump, said Bonnie Glaser, Asia's senior advisor Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. But most likely, was a comment by John Bolton, Trump's false national security adviser, who compared North Korea to Libya, she said. Libya abandoned its nuclear program at an early stage just to see its long-time dictator overthrown and brutally killed.
"I doubt that Xi has attempted to sabotage the Trump-Kim summit," Glaser said of America's direct coverage of North Korea could find Beijing important for dealing with the North. China is now at the center of the urge to bring the pages together, and Washington and South Korea will likely now need to work more closely with China, Cheng said.
This could give new impetus to China's proposed solutions, such as freezing large-scale US-South Korean military exercises in return for halting the North's nuclear and missile programs.
China also supports the North's call for a "gradual and synchronous" approach to denuclearization, in contrast to Washington's call for an immediate, total and irreversible end to the nuclear programs of the North.
But recent Chinese actions in the South China Sea have already undermined US confidence in Xi's reliability, which could lessen the weight of China's role in resolving Korean tensions George Washington University China expert Robert Sutter. Trump had offered credible trade conditions and postponed other actions in exchange for China's aid to North Korea.
"Even if Xi Jinping and China are not considered duplicitous in North Korea, the Trump administration could come The North Korea problem is not easy to fix," said Sutter. "In that case, its urgency and importance may diminish, which would reduce one of the reasons for China's careless handling of other sensitive issues in US-China relations."
Meanwhile, Beijing appeals to the Kim regime to introduce Chinese business practices Reforms could finally gain momentum after the North announced in April that it would shift its national focus to improving its economy. China is by far North Korea's largest trading partner, although trade between them has dropped sharply since Beijing rigorously enforced UN Security Council sanctions on the North's nuclear weapons and missile programs.
China would quickly seize any opening of North Korea Tensions in the hope that the sanctions be eased will be reduced, said Guo Rui, a professor at the School of Public Administration of Jilin University in northeastern China.
"In that case, China would certainly play a constructive role in helping North Korea's economy," said Guo.
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