Will Trump-Xi talks be another ‘tremendous success’?

File photo of US President Donald Trump with Chinese President Xi Jinping [Xinhua]

Chinese President Xi Jinping hosted his US counterpart Donald Trump at the Palace Museum within the Forbidden City, a historic site at the heart of the capital Beijing on Wednesday.

The two presidents, who have at times been at odds over how to deal with North Korea, met for tea at the Hall of the Embodied Treasures in the Museum with both first ladies in attendance.

Chinese news media showed Xi giving Trump and the first ladies a tour of the other main halls in the museum.

Trump’s three-day visit to China is part of a five-nation Asia tour which began with a trip to Japan on Sunday, but with pleasantries aside, both countries will enter intense talks on Thursday to deal with security in northeast Asia and the Pacific, as well as discussions on America’s huge trade deficit with China.

Two-way trade between the two countries last year stood at $578.6 billion, with only $116 billion of that amount accounting for US exports to China.

That resulted in a $347 billion trade deficit between Washington and Beijing, something that Trump has spoken at length about and criticized the Chinese for “unfair trade practices”.

Trump has also accused the Chinese of currency manipulation saying they were keeping the yuan currency intentionally low to drive their exports.

But the yuan is up about one per cent against the dollar year on year.

The Korean Crisis

Trump has hinted at the military option to “totally destroy” North Korea. He maintains that 25 years of cajoling and diplomatic efforts have failed to deter Pyongyang from further developing its ballistic missile and nuclear technologies.

But Trump has also pressured China to exert its influences as North Korea’s largest trading partner.

In late September, Chinese banks said they were ordered by the government to implement UN sanctions against North Korean companies. The Chinese Commerce Ministry also said it would shut down North Korean companies operating in China.

But even though China had strongly condemned North Korea for the number of violations regarding ballistic missile and nuclear tests in the past year, it is loathe to see its neighbor destablized.

Firstly, it is concerned about a wave of refugees fleeing across the China border if the government in Pyongyang collapses.

Secondly, China fears a war on the Korean Peninsula will threaten the entire Asia-Pacific region. It has several times cautioned against the war rhetoric emerging from Washington and maintained that any military conflict would be a lose-lose scenario.

Chinese media has called the US approach “reckless”.

Trump may press the Chinese to do more, but it is unlikely they will take the kinds of measures the Americans are looking for.

China’s longstanding policy is to calm tension and have all countries involved return to the six-party talks.

North Korea has traditionally blamed the US for the elevated state of tension and has said that joint South Korean-US military exercises are perceived as direct national threats to Pyongyang.

Both China and Russia have also strongly criticized the US decision to deploy the THAAD weapons system in South Korea saying it will ignite a weapons race in the region.

The US began in June to deploy parts of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system in South Korea and Japan.

Another point of contention will be the issue of Washington’s objection of Beijing’s role in the South China Sea. But it appears that Trump has pushed that down his priority list as he tries to curry favor and influence with China to exert more pressures on North Korea.

Beijing has traditionally held that Washington has meddled in the South China Sea, often to the point of incitement. The US conducts periodic air and naval patrols near the disputed islands – a move which has angered Beijing.

Beijing claims 90 per cent of the South China Sea, a maritime region believed to hold a wealth of untapped oil and gas reserves and through which roughly $4.5 trillion of ship-borne trade passes every year.

Climate change

In the meantime, Xi will press Trump on climate change and the need for the US to return to the Paris Agreement on climate control, which was initially signed by former President Barack Obama just two years ago.

In June, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order to withdraw from the agreement citing that it was unfair to his country and that it required to be renegotiated so that it does not impose uneven restrictions on Washington.

With Syria having signed the accord earlier this week, the US is now the only country in the world to have walked away from the agreements.

The talks between the two presidents are likely to be very cordial; both have said that they maintained good relations with one another ever since Xi visited Trump in Key Largo, Florida last April. Following there talks in April, Trump said that “tremendous progress” had been achieved between both leaders.

More on China-US disagreements over North Korea

By Firas Al-Atraqchi for The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies

Russia increases pressure on North Korea

Putin does not agree with Trump’s threats against North Korea, and says such vitriol will add to tensions in the region [PPIO]

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree this week to enforce United Nations Security Council resolutions on North Korea.

In line with the UNSC resolutions, Putin ordered that increased restrictions be applied to North Korea in the trade, financial, and scientific sectors even though Russia has no existing economic ties to the country.

The UNSC passed Resolution 2371 on August 5 in response to Pyongyang testing two ballistic missiles.

A month later, Resolution 2375 was passed by the Council in response to North Korea’s nuclear test. Analysts say that 2375 is the most punitive and restrictive measure taken by the UNSC against North Korea to date.

Both resolutions restrict coal, iron and iron ore, seafood, lead and lead ore, and banning textile exports from North Korea while applying a cap on refined petroleum product imports at two million barrels per year, and freezing the amount of crude oil imports.

The resolutions also target the freezing of assets of North Korean officials and individuals.

But four days later, North Korea conducted another ballistic missile test, which was condemned by the Council.

Russia called the test a provocation and said it would exacerbate tensions in an already edgy Pacific region.

Putin has been vocal about North Korea’s defiance of the UNSC and its persistent missile tests but has also urged calm in dealing with the crisis, particularly as the war of words increases between Pyongyang and Washington.

Last month, US President Donald Trump said the US could destroy North Korea.

Putin said the “belligerent rhetoric” is dangerous.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies

N Korea defiant in face of US threats, UN sanctions

The leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Kim Jong Un (front) has vowed to speed up the nuclear and ballistic missile programs [Xinhua]

Despite the threat of all-out war with the US and its allies in the Pacific and the weight of new UN sanctions, North Korea is to push ahead with full-scale development of its nuclear and missile technologies.

During the Second Plenum of the 7th Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea held on Saturday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said that military development was a key defensive strategy against the US.

On September 3, North Korea successfully tested a hydrogen bomb which caused a 6.3 magnitude earthquake in the region. Initial estimates about yield indicate the bomb is equal to 120 kilotons, far more powerful than any of its past five nuclear tests.

The UN Security Council passed the harshest set of sanctions yet on September 12. The measures included restricting the North’s oil imports and its textile exports, among a list of other items.

US President Donald Trump has hinted at the military option to “totally destroy” North Korea. He maintains that 25 years of cajoling and diplomatic efforts have failed to deter Pyongyang from further developing its ballistic missile and nuclear technologies.

But Trump has also pressured China to exert its influences as North Korea’s largest trading partner.

In late September, Chinese banks said they were ordered by the government to implement UN sanctions against North Korean companies. The Chinese Commerce Ministry also said it would shut down North Korean companies operating in China.

But Kim Jong-Un remains defiant.

“The nuclear weapons of the DPRK are a precious fruition borne by its people’s bloody struggle for defending the destiny and sovereignty of the country from the protracted nuclear threats of the US imperialists,” he said on Saturday in remarks carried by the Korean Central News Agency.

Analysis: China between a rock and a hard place over North Korea

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies

Analysis: China between a rock and a hard place over N Korea

Is North Korean leader Kim Jong Un the insane leader of a rogue state as the media makes him out to be? Here, he is addressing the central committee of the ruling Workers’ Party in Pyongyang [North Korean Central News Agency]

News that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, also known as North Korea) on Sunday successfully tested its sixth hydrogen bomb, meant for long-term missile warfare, has brought speculations of a nuclear Armageddon back to the fore.

The missile test was condemned by Russia and the US. It also received strong rebuke from China, which is hosting the 9th annual BRICS Summit in Xiamen.

“The Chinese government resolutely opposes and strongly condemns this,” a Chinese foreign ministry statement said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, meeting on the sidelines of the Summit, said they will “stick to the goal of denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and keep close communication and coordination to deal with the new situation”.

But this new situation is trying patience in China, North Korea’s only real friend in the region.

The Chinese are angry at North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for trying to upstage the Summit, and for putting them in an unenviable situation vis-a-vis the fiery chest-pumping antics from the White House.

US President Donald Trump immediately mandated the Treasury to draft a new sanctions regime to slap on top of the current one, all aimed at debilitating North Korea’s access to resources and its military prowess.

But he also took a Twitter swipe at China and South Korea. He threatened to stop conducting trade with China if it doesn’t do more to rein the North in, and mocked South Korea for wanting to return to use economics to lure the North away from nuclearization.

“South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!” he Tweeted on Sunday evening.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in as recently as last week said that South Korean policies in dealing with the North need to return to the experiences of the past, specifically about 10 years ago when relations with Pyongyang appeared to be on the mend and both countries were involved in joint economic projects.

Unlike his predecessor President Park Geun-hye, who was ousted on corruption charges, Moon came to the presidency with a clear vision to repair ties with the North.

“If countries want to do business with the United States, they obviously will be working with our allies and others to cut off North Korea economically,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin toldFox News.

Sanctions upon sanctions

Just three months ago, China and the US appeared to be on the same page about North Korea. Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) meets with his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump on the sidelines of a Group of 20 (G20) summit, in Hamburg, Germany, July 8, 2017 [Xinhua]

United Nations Security Council sanctions against North Korea already render most trade with the country illegal under international law. Numerous resolutions passed in 2006, 2009 and 2016 imposed a comprehensive arms and military embargo on the “rogue” state and any other activity contributing to its widespread violations of human rights.

Other resolutions since North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006 have also been geared towards suffocating the state’s foreign trade.

The most recent resolution, approved early August, targets North Korea’s primary exports – namely coal, iron and lead ores.

The US also implements a complex unilateral sanctions regime against the country. The The 2016 North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act requires the president to sanction entities and individuals found to have contributed to North Korea’s armaments or human rights abuses.

President Trump, now however, has even gone so far as to threaten cutting off trade with any country trading with North Korea, wagging his finger specifically at China.

This would jeopardize the economic might of both countries. The US trade deficit with China was $347 billion in 2016, meaning that it relied heavily on imports from the Asian mammoth state.

China has, however, for the past two decades and throughout the numerous standoffs between Pyongyang and Washington insisted that the six-party talks remain the best mechanism to defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Trump has so far avoided diplomacy, insisting on one-upping North Korea through displays of force and militant posture. The US has pressured China into giving them a license to deploy THAAD anti-missile defense systems across the frontier of South Korea.

Both China and Russia are opposed to such deployment in South Korea and say it will fuel an arms race in the region.

And while China’s Foreign Ministry’s said Beijing “resolutely” opposed and condemned North Korea’s nuclear test, state media and government mouthpiece Global Times has repeatedly called for diplomacy in favor of a full embargo.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has also called North Korea’s nuclear maneuvers a “long shadow”, looming over more than half a century of peace. Instead, he insists that only through dialogue and negotiation could “the flame of war be put out.”

But as China tries to navigate an increasingly wrought tightrope between consolidating economic relations with the US and maintaining regional peace, the US seems to be gearing towards direct action.

This has also angered the Chinese. In several instances, they have blamed Washington for adding fuel to fire when it comes to dealing with North Korea.

The US has historically antagonized Pyongyang, ostracizing the “rogue” state from the international community, demonizing its leaders and victimizing its people. It has also held

North Korea, in turn, has done little to support its cause against the American military behemoth. The country has been turned into an international pariah by its rulers; not only sealing off the rest of the world, but entrapping its citizens within its own walls.

Isolated, but rogue?

Most of our information regarding the widespread, systematic and longstanding human rights violations stem from local defectors, which could be troublesome if one considers the less than reliable history of using such tools to justify foreign policy.

Nevertheless, North Korea’s restrictions on freedom of speechpress and movement are chilling. More so are its brutal campaigns on forced disappearancesindefinite detention of foreigners and public executions

The UN Human Rights Commission has traced patterns of extensive torturecomprehensive imprisonment and internment camps and extermination that allegedly reach unprecedented levels in the modern world. In fact, many compare the present-day DPRK to Nazi Germany.

UNICEF similarly found deliberate starvation of children, while other human rights bodies have documented the forced inscription of girls as young as 14 years old into prostitution teams.

North Korea’s considerable military capabilities has so far spared it the type of “humanitarian intervention” and liberation campaigns which have reduced much of Iraq, Libya and Syria to rubble.

But as the US finds itself increasingly embroiled in the domestic affairs of other countries, the threat of a nuclear standoff looms over the world stage.

Promises of renewed military presence in Afghanistan, threat of full-blown intervention in Venezuela and displays of aerial force over the Korean Peninsula indicate a turn away from Trump’s campaign promise of isolationism.

‘Burned down every town’

But Pyongyang’s “unpredictable antics” vis-a-vis Washington may in fact be seen as studied and deliberate in light of both the US’ recent regime-change wars in Iraq and Libya and the legacy of the Korean War (1950-53), which divided the Korean people into their current formation.

Operating under the auspices of the then nascent UN, the US and its allies launched a merciless war campaign, resulting in the deaths of over 4 million people – half of whom were civilians.

“We went over there and fought the war and eventually burned down every town in North Korea anyway, some way or another… Over a period of three years or so, we killed off, what, 20 percent of the population?” – US Air Force General General Curtis LeMay.

In 1950, the US and its allies forced themselves into the war – despite Soviet vetoes – through unconventional legal and diplomatic maneuvering, devising a technique that would allow a General Assembly resolution to bypass a stalemate in the Security Council.

The Korean War is known as the “forgotten war”, but even those who remember it rarely recall the extent of the devastation wreaked on the peninsula.

By late 1950, B-29 formations were dropping 800 tons of napalm a day on the North.

General Douglas MacArthur would testify to Congress only one year after the war had started, saying:

“The war in Korea has already almost destroyed that nation of 20 million people. I have never seen such devastation. I have seen, I guess, as much blood and disaster as any living man, and it just curdled my stomach, the last time I was there. After I looked at that wreckage and those thousands of women and children … I vomited.”

On the same week the world observed the 72nd anniversary of the US’ atomic bombings of Japan, Trump threated to rain “fire and fury like the world has never seen” on the North Korean people followed by Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis’ warning that Kim Jong-un’s actions risked the “destruction of his people.”

It was that precise destruction of a people in 1953 that birthed the Korean divide and breast-fed the type of fear and paranoia we see in Pyongyang today.

US pressure on countries to end relations with the South Asian state is another symptom of its deliberate effort to stifle the country and stave off Kim Jung-un’s “madness”.

China’s options

China is understandably angry at both North Korea and the US. It acknowledges that it is in a difficult position because Trump is not the type of leader who can be convinced to reverse course, or change tactics on what is the world’s greatest security threat at the moment.

A war on the Korean Peninsula would not only create a humanitarian catastrophe pushing millions of refugees across the shared border into China, but also devastate regional economies – Japan included.

It would strengthen Washington’s resolve to deploy further military and economic resources in China’s front yard – a nightmare scenario for the Russians as well.

China will likely continue to condemn North Korea’s persistent missile tests while it also rebukes the US for its belligerent rhetoric. Secretly, it will increase the economic stranglehold on Pyongyang, possibly expelling the 100,000 North Korean workers in China and cutting off the economic lifeline they provide.

But Beijing will also insist that multilateral talks are the only way out of the nuclear standoff.

The final declaration of the BRICS Summit in Xiamen summed it up:

We strongly deplore the nuclear test conducted by the DPRK. We express deep concern over the ongoing tension and prolonged nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula, and emphasize that it should only be settled through peaceful means and direct dialogue of all the parties concerned.

By Mohamed Kouta for The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies

A Brighter Future for BRICS

The 9th BRICS summit in Xiamen, China is not a routine meeting because it comes at a time when the bloc is entering a new stage of intensive development.

Moreover, it is the place for China to demonstrate its new role in international relations and the global economy.

The summit also comes at a time of increased political tensions in different areas, both close to the venue itself – that is, the Korean peninsula – and faraway Syria and the Middle East.

At the same time, US policy seems to be in disarray and there is no clear understanding of how US President Donald Trump’s inward looking economic policy would be coordinated with the aggressive interference in other countries, which still remains the trademark of his administration’s activities despite his intention to withdraw from many regions.

The Alternative

BRICS, therefore, should demonstrate its role as an alternative source of power, derived from the combination of global rising powers that can contribute to the stability of the world order and introduce new rules of behavior, and new rules of cooperation on an international scale.

Regional security issues are acute. The BRICS mechanism has already proved its efficiency in becoming a channel for finding solutions in the bilateral and intra-BRICS political arena.

It was during a BRICS High Representatives meeting in China when Chinese and Indian officials found compromise to the Doklam territorial issue.

For most of this summer, Indian and Chinese troops were engaged in a tense military standoff in the Doklam area on the Sikkim sector of the India-China border.

Their compromise to disengage on August 28 was implemented just in time so as to not aggravate the BRICS summit.

BRICS will also be united on issues like the Korean peninsula and the need for a diplomatic solution to this problem, and on the fight against terrorism as well as other hot issues of today’s world.

BRICS is in fact presenting a clear-cut strategy of creating a just world order which facilitates an increasing role for developing nations, including the bloc.

In fact, BRICS is becoming the meeting place for developing countries and the platform for South-South cooperation.

The “BRICS-plus” concept introduced by China (to invite five other nations to attend the Summit) is the innovation that brings to the BRICS process other regional powers on a permanent basis, and not on a case-by-case basis which it was before.

We hope that it is not a one time event and in the future a sort of “BRICS friends club” will emerge that will help these countries to cooperate with BRICS on various economic and political bases.

Financial Redesign

BRICS is particularly interested in the financial architecture of the world, and the Xiamen Summit will help develop the new approaches to increasing the influential role of BRICS and other developing countries in structures like the IMF and World Bank.

A demonstration of this financial vigor is nowhere more evident than in the increasing activity of the New Development Bank.

It has adopted its long-term strategy; it just opened its branch office in Johannesburg (South Africa) and is scheduled to open such branch offices in other BRICS countries.

The Bank has already disbursed $1.5 billion in the first seven credit lines for all BRICS countries and now is planning to disburse another $2.5 to 3 billion this year for projects as different as Russian judicial system informatisation and Chinese ecological projects.

The BRICS summit will surely defend the bloc’s position on the observation of WTO rules, will strongly stand against protectionism and economic discrimination, sanctions and attempts to downgrade the ratings of BRICS countries.

It is also vital that BRICS brings new ideas into the information security sphere, suggesting to sign a new intra-BRICS agreement on international information security.

This is a very logical sphere of BRICS’s interest because the five nations comprise the greatest number of internet users in the world and access should not be a national regulated enterprise but the sphere of necessity for all mankind.

This is part of where BRICS can demonstrate a new level of cooperation in humanitarian and people exchange in the science and technology, civil sector, youth, women etc.

China’s hosting of the summit, in line with the Beijing leadership’s commitment to increase multilateralism and globalization, will help BRICS move further intensively and extensively by pushing from the project inception stage to discussions, from discussions to signing the agreements and the real “on the ground” implementation.

That will help consolidate BRICS’s role as a vital player in global governance.

Tensions ease over North Korea

Despite reports of a rift with China in US media, tensions between Pyongyang and Washington appear to have subsided

The war of words between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un appears to have subsided this week as South Korean President Moon Jae-in announced he was seeking improved relations with Pyongyang.

During a political rally in Arkansas earlier in the week, Trump claimed that Kim was “starting to respect us” even as the North Korean leader continued to inspect weapons facilities in his country.

On Thursday, Moon said that improved relations with the North could eventually lead to the denuclearization that world powers seek.

Moon said that South Korean policies in dealing with the North need to return to the experiences of the past, specifically about 10 years ago when relations with Pyongyang appeared to be on the mend and both countries were involved in joint economic projects.

Unlike his predecessor President Park Geun-hye, who was ousted on corruption charges, Moon came to the presidency with a clear vision to repair ties with the North.

Since his inauguration in May, Moon has been seeking to reform the South’s way of dealing with the North amid the continuing tensions and war of words between Pyongyang and Washington.

He has asked his security and foreign policy appointees to draft a unification approach with the north; this has long been an initiative both Koreas have discussed during more peaceful times.

Between 2000 and 2007, South Korea joined the North along with China, the United States, Russia and Japan in what were known as the six-party talks to use economic engagement to persuade Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Known as the Sunshine Policy in Seoul, the engagement was designed to create jobs for North Korean workers in addition to social exchange between the two Koreas.

The policy was largely shelved in 2008. China has repeatedly called for a return to the six-party talks.

China calls for calm

Despite US media claims that a rift had emerged between Washington and Beijing on how to rein in North Korea, it seems that Chinese calls for calm and dialogue are working.

China has repeatedly warned that no one would win if there was war on the Korean Peninsula, advising against anything that could escalate the situation.

“We urge all parties to refrain from inflammatory or threatening statements or deeds to prevent irreversible damage to the situation on the Korean Peninsula,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry has said.

Earlier last month during a meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, Moscow and Beijing said that North Korea should freeze its nuclear and missile programs, while the US and South Korea should abstain from holding war games in the region.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, who spoke to Trump repeatedly on the crisis, has urged restraint from both Pyongyang and Washington.

China has also stressed on the grave threat a US anti-missile system in South Korea poses to both Chinese and Russian interests.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies

South Korea’s Moon appoints security advisors

South Korea has been keeping its military on high alert since the North began to increase the frequency of its ballistic missile tests and threaten the region [Xinhua]

Newly elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in is set to overhaul Seoul’s foreign policy with particular emphasis on easing tensions with the North.

On Wednesday, Moon appointed prominent university professors Lee Sang-Chul and Kim Ki-jung to the top security advisory positions to help him formulate new policies.

Moon is seeking to reform the South’s way of dealing with the North amid the continuing tensions and war of words between Pyongyang and Washington.

His appointees will not only be tasked with security and foreign policy but will also have to draft a unification approach with the north; this has long been an initiative both Koreas have discussed during more peaceful times.

On Monday, North Korea continued with its near weekly missile tests by launching the ground-to-ground Pukguksong-2 missile.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported that the Pukguksong-2 will now be produced and deployed throughout the country.

In the meantime, Moon believes taking a hardline with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will only make matters worse.

He advocates a mix of diplomacy and economic incentives to get North Korea to back away from its belligerent footing.

Moon has said that he is willing to meet with Kim to ease tensions along the Demilitarized zone.

In the coming days, Moon is expected to dispatch diplomatic and security envoys to the US, Russia, China and Japan to discuss the North Korean issue.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies