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By the time you read this, a busy day in Asian geopolitics will have begun. On Friday, North Korean despot Kim Jong Un meets his South Korean counterpart, President Moon Jae-in, at a historic summit. Their meeting is full of symbolism and enthusiasm – and could pave the way for an even more dramatic encounter between Kim and President Trump.
Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Chinese President Xi Jinping in the Chinese city of Wuhan for an "informal" visit. No major political action or dramatic explanation is expected, but the two leaders represent one third of humanity and nearly one fifth of the world economy. Your considerations will always be important.
The expectations on the Korean peninsula have of course increased significantly. Moon, a liberal who was elected on a platform of confrontation with the North, has worked diligently at this moment despite months of provocative rocket launches and nuclear testing by Pyongyang. Trump has meanwhile tested the prospect of a meeting and even sent the then CIA director and newly confirmed Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo to meet with Kim – a man who is now considered "very honorable" –
Experts warn, however, that little of the talks. The key point on the agenda between Kim and Moon will be "denuclearization". Trump has made it clear that he expects Pyongyang to "give up" his nuclear weapons, but analysts doubt that the North Koreans are only taking the first step in denuclearization – beyond the inspection and review of facilities and armaments – let alone nuclear weapons.
"While successive US governments have insisted that Pyongyang abandon its nuclear program and have the process verified by outside inspectors, the Kim regime has long said nothing. The process must be mutual and backed by the withdrawal of the US military Accompanied by South Korea, "said my colleague Anna Fifield. "In a statement on Saturday that North Korea would no longer carry out nuclear or missile tests, Kim did not mention that he was giving up his program, he just signaled a freeze."
But Trump has signaled that he is not on one interested in such a compromise – or even in a longer negotiation. The editors of the post argued that his excessive enthusiasm and impatience could be a problem. Trump "promotes the prospect of a big break and promises to get out if he does not get it, which could be a recipe for failure," the board noted. "Trump and his helpers should find out what kind of results from the summit are both realistic and in the American interest, and then develop a cautious strategy to achieve them."
There is little evidence of what this careful strategy is or whether it exists at all. And so the third inter-Korean summit could ultimately be the culmination of an unfortunate diplomatic process.
Modi and Xi's meetings will be much more careful. The two men are hardly allies, and their summit in central China is being billed as a chance for a "setback" after a rocky period that last year included a strained military gap along the disputed Sino-Bhutan-Indian border , The two powers engage in various geopolitical clashes and work with neighbors and outside actors such as Russia and the United States in a long-lasting regional chess game.
"India believes that last year's crisis was a dangerous period in the region. Relationship and tension must be kept in check – especially in the 2019 elections," wrote Shashank Joshi of the Royal United Services Institute in London.
Some experts argue that New Delhi should better align itself with the United Nations, not unlike South Korea or Japan. This contradicts both India's historic role in global politics and the instincts of its political leaders. But with China, which has a larger economy, a more powerful military, and a leader who can now enjoy a lifelong influence on power, India has little choice but to maintain some balance.
"India is no longer in a position to compete with China," said Jonathan Holslag, a professor at the Free University of Brussels, The New York Times. "It has failed to strengthen its national power through industrialization, as China has done, but it is still too proud to replace its strategy of non-alignment with a genuine alliance with the United States, as a result of which it is becoming weaker and weaker."
Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi before a meeting of foreign ministers and officials from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on April 24. (Madoka Ikegami / AFP / Getty Images)
But the Trump administration has given little cause for optimism to New Delhi, despite the lip service paid to a renewed alliance with Asian democracies. "Personal changes, economic friction and the transactionalism of President Donald Trump have contributed to some fears about the US attitude toward India and the region," said Tanvi Madan of the Brookings Institution. "Russia, which has historically regarded India as an important balance for China, continues its ties with Beijing and more recently with Islamabad."
Therefore, Modi seems to be ready to assemble in Beijing – at least for the moment. "India is responding to an uncertain time in world politics," Joshi concluded. "India's concern is that Beijing will improve relations with Washington over the North Korean crisis and with Moscow over the collapse of relations between West and Russia at the expense of Delhi, and India is now hampering its operations."
Chinese officials are throwing it Modi-Xi config into positive, though typically inappropriate, terms. "As leaders of the two largest developing countries, they believe that the two countries need to communicate extensively on some of the long-term, comprehensive and strategic issues that are enshrined in bilateral relations and international affairs," said Lu Kang, Chinese spokesman Foreign Ministry reporter earlier this week.
After all, that's a reason to pay attention to it. What happens in Wuhan could have a deeper and more lasting meaning to the region than the highly choreographed affair in the DMZ.
"This is recognition by both leaders that India and China must work together to make the 21st century the Asian century," said Madhav Das Nalapat, director of geopolitics at Manipal University in India, to CNN. "The Asian century is, frankly, the heart of this summit."
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