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Glimmer of hope in Kim-Trump talks
2018-03-19, Jin Qiangyi

That US President Donald Trump has agreed to meet with Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) leader Kim Jong-un in May has raised hopes that tensions on the Korean Peninsula will be defused.

For the DPRK, years of harsh sanctions have created huge difficulties for its economy, so it participated in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics to initiate a thaw in its relations with the Republic of Korea (ROK).

For Trump, who is facing all kinds of domestic problems, the proposed meeting offers an immediate chance to raise his ratings back home. Perhaps ROK special envoy Chung Eui-yong conveyed some key message during his visit to the US that prompted the US president to change his mind.

For China, a responsible power that has remained committed to making efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, the proposed Kim-Trump meeting is a welcome move, as it could help restore peace and stability on the peninsula. 

Beijing gives priority to any effort made to peacefully resolve the DPRK nuclear issue, as the peninsula is closely linked to the peaceful development of Northeast China. Trump’s telephone conversation with President Xi Jinping on March 9 and the ROK special envoy’s visit to China on March 12 show that China has been kept posted all the time.

Therefore, observers who believe Beijing is being sidelined in the peninsula issue are wrong.

Besides, the proposed meeting in May, which has not been finalized but remains highly likely, might not necessarily pave the way for the ultimate normalization of US-DPRK relations. 

Washington, as Trump has announced, wants Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear policy. So the DPRK could use the proposed talks to earn time and resources to boost its economic development, but not change its stance on the nuclear issue. Also, the US is unlikely to change its basic strategy on the Korean Peninsula.

Thanks to its alliances with Japan and the ROK, the US has made the peninsula a base point of its Asia-Pacific strategy, which aims to focus on China and Russia. And Washington has taken some measures that are not conducive to resolving the Korean Peninsula issue, fearing that China would become a bigger power that can challenge the US.

The US has used the disagreements and differences between the ROK and the DPRK to restrain the development space for China and Russia. In fact, Washington has consolidated its alliance with Seoul to create “controllable” tension on the peninsula and impede cooperation in the Northeast Asian region. 

Northeast Asia can develop together and attract global investment if peace is restored on the peninsula. 

And a fast-developing Northeast Asia could become a new economic powerhouse which, working together with North America and Europe, could generate greater mutual benefits and contribute more to the global economy.

The world has reached a consensus that the sanctions against the DPRK can be eased if it changes its nuclear policy. But the game some powers are playing by taking advantage of the instability on the Korean Peninsula will lead to chaos and cause severe losses to all sides.

The proposed talks between Kim and Trump provide a glimmer of hope for resolving the DPRK nuclear issue. Hopefully, both sides will use the talks to pave the way for the resumption of the Six-Party Talks, in order to once and for all settle the nuclear issue.

 

The author is head of International Politics Institute at Yanbian University, Northeast China’s Jilin province.

 

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