President Xi and the Xinhua news agency put Kim Jong Un on the record. On 28 March, the Chinese news agency Xinhua published a long and detailed report on the Kim visit. The fuller report clarifies several points and warrants some additional comments.
The Xinhua report reminded readers that China adopted as policy and law Xi’s three phase strategy of making China moderately prosperous by 2020, having achieved modernization by 2035 and building a great modern socialist country by 2050. The strategy will not change because of any single event. North Korea is coopted into the strategy.
What is not said is also important. This relationship is not between equals. It is not based on friendship or shared goals or even shared principles. It is not based on duty among communists. North Korea is non-compliant.
The Chinese view their relationship with North Korea is an asset in China’s strategy for dealing with the US. Kim does not see the Chinese big picture.
That judgment puts in context the lack of comments about reunification. Kim talked about warm inter-Korean relations without saying “reunification.” A reunified Korean state would pose a new and powerful challenge to China. It would be capable of frustrating the President Xi’s grand strategy. China opposes a reunified Korea. A stable, independent DPRK fits in China’s strategy.
Buried in the middle of the Xinhua report is the following paragraph.
“The Chinese side expects political stability, economic development and people’s happiness in the DPRK, and supports the WPK, led by Comrade Chairman, in leading the people of the DPRK to advance along the path of socialism, as well as the endeavors by comrades of the DPRK in the developing economy and improving people’s livelihood, Xi said.”
In this paragraph, Xi took Kim to the woodshed. China ordered North Korea to behave, put its own house in order and get out of China’s way. Whenever the Chinese leader resorts to stating China’s expectations, it always means that the client or tributary state has fallen short. This is strong medicine. China is the socialist model for North Korea, rather than Kim’s chaotic experiments in market economics.
The Chinese view of balanced development is not the North Korean byungjinstrategy of parallel development of nuclear weapons and of the economy. This is also a message directed to the North Korean Vice Marshals and Generals who have neglected the people’s livelihood for the sake of nuclear weapons.
China’s policy is North Korean denuclearization, “Xi said that positive changes had taken place on the Korean Peninsula since this year, and China appreciates the important efforts made by the DPRK”.
“On the Korean Peninsula issue, Xi said that China sticks to the goal of denuclearization of the peninsula, safeguarding peace and stability on the peninsula and solving problems through dialogue and consultation.” Kim fenced with words about denuclearization because he has to face his generals at home.
“Kim said that the DPRK is determined to transform the inter-Korean ties into a relationship of reconciliation and cooperation and hold a summit between the heads of the two sides.”
Concerning summitry, the excerpts available previously in the English language press did not quote Kim the way Xinhua did. Kim cannot easily back down from a summit now. He is on the record. The game of using the South Korean special envoys in shuttle diplomacy is ended.
The price for Chinese friendship is North Korean agreement to fit in China’s grand plan. Kim appears to have done that up to a point. As a safeguard against backsliding, China published Kim’s words of agreement, almost as if there was an open mike.
- Xi did not mention sanctions or promise sanctions relief. He also did not credit North Korea as a nuclear state or as a middle power with an important role in international affairs. He tended to treat Kim as an important, non-compliant tributary. The four images published showed handshakes, but no embraces.
- Kim did not promise to stop any programs. He did say he hoped for closer communications, sending cards and letters, sending envoys and holding high-level guidance meetings – all leadership actions. Kim implicitly agreed to keep China informed about the process, progress and content of the two future summits.
The two communist states are communicating again. China tutored Kim to try to keep him from unhinging Chinese plans. The underlying tension between Chinese and Koreans remains. The meeting was guidance for Kim and a strategic challenge for the US.
The Saudi-led Coalition began a large air campaign over Yemen, following the Houthi missile attack earlier this week.
According to the official media wing of the Houthi forces, the Saudi-led coalition conducted dozens of airstrikes, with at least 18 of them conducted last night in the Hajjah Governorate, west of Sana’a.
The Saudi-led Coalition has primarily concentrated this air campaign on the Houthi-held areas in the Sana’a, Hajjah, and Sa’ada governorates.
This attack is punitive. Large air raids have had almost no measurable effect on the civil war, except to deepen hostility and strengthen resolve to fight on.
Erdogan vowed to take Manbij. Turkey will take action if militants do not withdraw immediately from Syria’s Manbij region and areas in the country east of the Euphrates, Turkey’s National Security Council said on Wednesday, 28 March.
Terrorists have to immediately leave Manbij or Turkey will begin military operations as it has done elsewhere, the National Security Council declared.
The US has personnel in the Manbij area and doesn’t plan to leave. If the US does not withdraw its personnel and Turkey persists in attacking Manbij, clashes between the two NATO members would appear to be inevitable. The Russians will enjoy the spectacle from the sidelines.
Turkey is the only NATO member that routinely clashes with another NATO member, namely the Greeks.