Date
15 December 2019
US President Donald Trump shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as they meet at the DMZ separating the two Koreas, in Panmunjom, South Korea, on Sunday. Photo: KCNA via Reuters
US President Donald Trump shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as they meet at the DMZ separating the two Koreas, in Panmunjom, South Korea, on Sunday. Photo: KCNA via Reuters

Why the latest Trump-Kim handshake has created a win-win-win

All eyes were on the G20 summit held in Osaka, Japan, over the weekend.

However, the real high drama took place along the 38th parallel of the Korean peninsula on Sunday, when US President Donald Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and became the first-ever sitting US president to set foot on North Korean soil across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

According to Trump, the historic visit was a spontaneous move. On Saturday morning, he posted on Twitter that “if Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!”.

A North Korean official quickly responded to Trump’s tweet, and arranged for its paramount leader to meet with him on Sunday, and hence the “historic visit”.

In fact, in our opinion, Trump’s meeting with Kim at the DMZ could have been carefully orchestrated, with Beijing having played a key role in facilitating it.

One might still remember that back on June 21, Chinese President Xi Jinping wrapped up his first-ever state visit to North Korea.

Intriguingly, though, mainland officialdom was pretty equivocal over the agenda of Xi’s visit.

The fact that Xi chose to meet with Kim right before the G20 summit indicates that he must have been up to something very important with his trip, or else he wouldn’t have “condescended” to pay such a rare visit to Pyongyang at such a sensitive moment.

And that “very important thing”, we have reasons to believe, could have been trying to bring Kim back to the negotiation table with the Americans in exchange for a trade war truce with President Trump.

Apparently, Beijing has secured what it badly wanted at the G20 summit: Washington has called a temporary halt to further tariff hikes on Chinese goods, and agreed to partly ease export restrictions against Huawei over equipment and technologies that won’t threaten US national security.

And in return, Beijing has agreed to purchase over 540,000 metric tons of American soybeans.

Nevertheless, we must point out that what Xi has secured is only a “ceasefire”, not an “armistice”, which means Sino-US trade disputes have not been resolved.

But still, the “historic meeting” between Trump and Kim has undoubtedly created a win-win-win for China, the United States and North Korea.

In particular, as far as Trump is concerned, being able to get back on good terms with North Korea may substantially boost his odds of getting re-elected in 2020.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 1

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal