Kim Jong Un cancels talks with South Korea. What is the real reason behind it?
「The president of China, President Xi, could be influencing Kim Jong Un.」
Does president Trump have a point?
「I believe Beijing played a role in it. By its current situation Beijing has clear motives to match up North Korea. 」
Scott Snyder（外交委員會對朝政策研究室主任）： 「我個人認為金正恩之所以如此反應，更多是考慮到即將到來的文在寅與川普的會晤。」
「I personally think that the greater influence might be the fact that Moon is about to travel to Washington to meet Trump.」
「 Do you think Trump and Kim can actually strike a deal? If so, where would China be in the new dynamic after such an agreement?」
Scott Snyder（外交委員會對朝政策研究室主任）：「 從中共的角度來看，美朝之間達成一個壞的協議反而是好事。即使無法讓朝鮮無核化，維持現狀對中共來說也是好的 。」
「A bad deal from China’s perspective will probably be seen as good because it will perpetuate the status quo even if it might not resolve in complete North Korean denuclearization. 」
Welcome to 《Zooming In》, I am Simone Gao. Yes, Kim Jong-un flipped again by cancelling the meeting with the South. This is surprising considering up until the day before the cancellation, Kim had been smiling. He closed a nuclear test site, released 3 US hostages, and walked back and forth with South Korean president Moon Jae-in over the Korean border. But Kim is Kim. We should never forget that. This Kim might be different in a way that he is more skilled than his father and grandfather at his maneuvers on the international stage. However, his counterpart is also different. President Trump is neither president Clinton nor president Bush or Obama. Kim wants to repeat history, but Trump wants to make history. How will this match proceed? Let’s explore in this episode of 《Zooming In》.
Last week, North Korea abruptly canceled its high-level talks with South Korea just hours before they were scheduled to begin. North Korea’s state television made an announcement:「The South Korean authorities, lost all senses, should be held wholly accountable for the scuttled North-South high-level talks and the difficulties and obstacles in the way of the North-South relations. The US will have to think twice about the fate of the North Korea-US summit being now high on the agenda in respect of a provocative military racket against North Korea in league with the South Korean authorities.」
Footage of NKorea’s announcement
A statement published by the Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) quoted Kim Kye Gwan，North Korea’s First Vice Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, saying 「If the Trump administration was『genuinely committed』to improving ties with Pyongyang，they will receive a deserving response. But if they try to push us into a corner and force only unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in that kind of talks and will have to reconsider the upcoming summit.」 He also said North Korea is not interested in U.S. economic compensation in exchange for North Korea’s abandonment of nuclear weapons.
The statement also referenced earlier comments made by John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, about Libya being a potential model for North Korean denuclearization.
The Libyan former leader Moammar Gadhafi dismantled his nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs in December 2003 after months of negotiations with the U.S. Afterwards, Gadhafi considered it too small of a reward for Libya for giving up its nuclear weapons program. He was also dissatisfied at the United States’ slowness in normalizing relations with Libya and in pressuring Israel to denuclearize. The Libyan government was overthrown in the Arab Spring in 2011 with the help of NATO forces, and Gadhafi was shot dead by rebels.
Kim Kye Gwan refers to Bolton’s comments as 「an awfully sinister move to impose on our dignified state the destiny of Libya or Iraq which had been collapsed due to yielding the whole of their countries to big powers.」
On Friday, however, President Trump dismissed talk of applying the「Libyan model」to North Korea.
「Well, the Libyan model isn’t a model that we have at all when we’re thinking of North Korea. In Libya we decimated that country. That country was decimated. There was no deal to keep Gadhafi. The Libyan model that was mentioned was a much different deal. This would be with Kim Jong Un, something where he’d be there, he’d be in his country, he’d be running his country.」
Despite the reasons the Kim regime gave for this sudden change of mind, the move is still surprising considering just a week earlier North Korea released three American hostages. Just a day before, it appeared to have shut down a nuclear test site. Weeks before, Kim Jong-un walked across the border into South Korea for the first time and met South Korean President Moon Jae-in. And back in March, South Korea’s national security adviser told reporters Kim had invited Trump to meet. He also said that Kim 「understands that the routine joint military exercises between Korea and the United States must continue.」
Then how did the sudden change come about? There is another important event we need to take into account. A week before Kim’s dramatic turn, he met with Chinese president Xi Jinping for the second time in a month. The cancellation announcement also came right before Liu He’s upcoming U.S. trip for trade negotiations. Does China play a role in this? I spoke with Scott Snyder, senior fellow for Korea studies and director of the program on U.S.-Korea policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. Mr. Snyder believes the reasons for Kim’s withdrawal are indeed US-Korea military drill and Libya. I followed up with this question.
「What’s puzzling about the military drill is that back in March, the South Korea national security adviser told the media that Kim Jong-un invited Trump to meet and that he understood the routine joint military exercises between Korea and the U.S. must continue. Then why is it a problem now?」
「 The exercises that they were talking about at that time were the annual military drills that the U.S. and South Korea conduct together, usually in March, but this year they were pushed back to April. And then, the two Koreas, the leaders of the two Koreas met on April 27th, and they made this new declaration in which both Koreas pledged to not to take — undertake military activities that could be perceived as hostile to the other. But it was a very vague statement, not well defined. And I think the North Koreans are just trying to see what they can get and indicate that they see the nature and equipment used in this particular exercise as violating the spirit of that agreement. And so I think that it is still the case that North Korea recognizes that the U.S. and South Korea have a legitimate reason to conduct exercises, but they don’t want to see elements that they consider to be hostile or offensive.」
「 Another thing is, a week before Kim Jong-un’s cancellation announcement, he went to China to meet with Xi Jinping for the second time in a month. Do you think that meeting has anything to do with this?」
「 I personally think that the greater influence might be the fact that Moon is about to travel to Washington to meet Trump rather than the fact that Kim Jong-un went to Dalian to meet Xi Jinping. It is true that North Korea and China have similar perspectives with regards to the role of the United States on the Korean Peninsula. But I just don’t quite think that Xi Jinping has been so specific as to suggest to Kim Jong-un that he should object to this military exercise. I think that’s not a very subtle approach. I think that the Chinese modus operandi, it may be heavy-handed at times, but it often is relatively subtle and that particular approach of putting Kim Jong-un up to trying to push back against the U.S. are okay exercises. I think it was more likely that the North Koreans came up with that idea than that they’re doing it at the behest of Xi Jinping.」
「What do you make of President Trump’s comment that the U.S. will not apply the Libya model to North Korea and that North Korea will get really rich and Kim Jong-un can stay in power if he gave up nuclear weapons? 」
「 Well, President Trump’s statement contains complexity. I think for the North Koreans because the North Korean statement of objected to the Libyan model, but it also objected to the idea that the United States was going to offer a lot of economic incentives to North Korea in order to achieve denuclearization. What the North Koreans really want is diplomatic normalization and security guarantees. And then of course, they will also take any economic assistance that the United States provides. But I think from the North Korean perspective, it’s very important to be seen as on an equal footing. And really they’re looking for acceptance by the United States as a kind of a hedge that would remove one of the largest challenges that North Korea perceives to its security.」
As to the Libya model, let’s also hear my discussion with Chinese senior political commentator Wen Zhao.
「 To quote Trump, the U.S. doesn’t make North Korea follow the Libya model; it didn’t protect Gadhafi. He promised if Kim would coordinate, he would make North Korea rich, and Kim would stay in power. What’s Trump’s deal like? Whose arms would Kim prefer, the U.S. or Communist China?」
「 Honestly, Trump’s remarks are widely mistaken. When he said he didn’t want to apply the Libya model to North Korea, he was simply telling — very probably — that Kim doesn’t have to worry: the fate of Gadhafi — abandoning nuclear programs and being hit in the civil war by the West — won’t happen to North Korea. The U.S. won’t attack North Korea after it gives up nuclear weapons — Kim’s safety is guaranteed. He wasn’t saying the U.S. gave up the model of denuclearization coming before compensation for Libya. Nor was he saying that he’s prepared to accept North Korea’s phased, synchronous denuclearization program. Trump is no professional diplomat. So many confused concepts in his mind. I even suspect if he’s clear about details of the denuclearization process in Libya. Those of his words were mainly to ease Kim’s security anxiety. North Korea’s so-called “phased, synchronous implementation” denuclearization program is even looser than the Iran nuclear agreement. If Trump accepts, his withdrawal from the Iranian agreement will be a joke. A “permanently, verifiably, and irreversibly” denuclearized deal is Trump’s goal. For the U.S., China and North Korea, the extent of the Chinese regime protecting North Korea depends on the value of North Korea in trade talks. There’s no solid foundation for Sino-Korean ties. That, I judge, also makes it hard for Kim to anchor his trust in Beijing.」
Coming up, Wen Zhao explains China’s role in Kim’s sudden change of attitude.
After Kim Jong-un unilaterally canceled the high level talks with South Korea, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged the U.S. to remain calm. The next day, President Trump indicated that Chinese President Xi Jinping could be influencing Kim Jong-un.
「I think things changed a little bit when they met with China. They met a second time, as you know, Kim Jong-un had a second meeting with China, which was a little bit of a surprise meeting. The president of China, President Xi, could be influencing Kim Jong-un, but we’ll see，That’s just look . if you remember, a few weeks ago, all of a sudden out of nowhere, Kim Jong-un went to China to say hello again a second time to President Xi. I think they were dedicating an aircraft carrier, paid for largely by the United States. 」
蕭茗（Host/Simone Gao）： 川普總統的看法是否有道理？讓我們來聽聽中國大陸問題資深評論員文昭先生的意見。
「Trump feels that Xi could play a role in Kim’s sudden cancellation of the North-South talks. Is Trump right in thinking so?」
「 I believe Beijing played a role in it. Besides Kim’s trip to Dalian on May 7-8, another North Korea delegation visited Beijing on May 14. The next day Chinese Vice Premier Liu flew to the U.S. Just one day later Kim threatened to cancel the scheduled U.S.-North Korea summit. These events were so close in time that it’s hard to deny the connection among them. By its current situation Beijing has clear motives to match up North Korea. Kim gave his threat on May 16, and round 2 of Sino-US trade talks staged on May 17. China can say that it has influence to keep Kim quiet at the negotiation table, and the U.S. should compromise in return. The U.S.-South Korea military exercise is not a surprise. It was made clear during the North-South Korea visits and Pompeo’s two trips to North Korea. And Kim raised no objection. Bolton’s remarks on the “Libya model” occurred at the end of April. And Kim kept silent for a lengthy period of more than two weeks. He even released three American hostages on May 9. So his sudden change of stance might be due to the recent influence from Beijing.」
「 Then, why does Kim do so, and what’s his goals? And what’s Xi Jinping’s goals?」
「Both Xi and Kim chose to act together, and use each other to put pressure on Trump. If Trump closes up to the phased, synchronous denuclearization, proposed by China and North Korea, Kim will certainly win the time; in the end, he might even retain part of his nuclear weapons, and economic sanctions will be eased. Over the process, the Chinese regime will maintain its influence in the peninsula. If the Libya model is taken, the U.S. will dominate the entire process. Beijing will be marginalized. So will North Korea. Then China will lose a card over Sino-U.S. trade disputes. It is risky for Kim to lose his temper at the right time of Sino-U.S. trade talks. As in usual Sino-Korea practices, I believe, Kim has gained certain benefits from Xi. Also, a sudden change may upset South Korea: the Panmunjom meeting gave the South Korean government hope for a North-South peace agreement and even future national unity. For fear of Kim withdrawing from the talks, Moon Jae-in may make more concessions and persuade the U.S. into compromising.」
Coming Up: Kim Jong-un repeats history, but will President Trump?
Despite the surprise, Kim Jong-un is not the first one in the Kim family who withdraws from important agreements. The Kim family has done this more than once.
In 1994, the Clinton Administration and North Korea signed an Agreed Framework. The U.S. agreed to facilitate the supply of two light-water reactors to North Korea in exchange for North Korea’s disarmament. However, the U.S. suspected that North Korea did not stop its nuclear program. In 1998, the U.S. requested to inspect its Yongbyon underground nuclear facilities. Kim Jong-il agreed but asked for $300,000,000 in compensation. The U.S. refused and that led to the first collapse of the agreement. During the Bush administration, the U.S. obtained evidence that North Korea was still secretly developing nuclear weapons and requested to send inspectors to North Korea again. North Korea rejected it and officially reopened its nuclear program under the excuse of developing nuclear power.
The Clinton, Bush and Obama administration had not been successful in terminating North Korea’s nuclear program. Donald Trump used a different strategy. Is it better? Let’s hear what Wen Zhao and Scott Snyder have to say.
「 Some say Trump’s max pressure strategy comes from Reagan’s thinking to deal with the Soviet Union. Is it a desirable solution? Does it work for Kim?」
「 I think it is a correct option for the United States. The reason is simple. Any change made in favor of the U.S. results from added pressure, either in the North Korean nuclear issue or in Sino-U.S. trade disputes. For any communist regime, they are afraid of nothing but two things: first, your national power; second, your determination to use your national power. Western nations never lack advantages of resources, but lacked the determination to use them. If you have advantages in your hands but never think of using them, it’s just like you’ve never had them at all. In the issue of North Korea, if the pressure policy is to work, it should be applied not only to North Korea, but also to China and South Korea. Of course it should vary with each of them. For Kim, it is economic sanctions plus military pressure; for the Chinese regime, it is trade sanctions; for South Korea, it is urging Moon Jae-in not to compromise. On Iran’s nuclear agreement, Trump demonstrated that he can, if necessary, act alone without its allies. He should also pass the same pressure on to South Korea.」
蕭茗（Host/Simone Gao）：斯科特 施奈德發表了他的看法。
This is what Scott Snyder has to say about this topic.
「 Trump is different from previous presidents in his dealing with the Kim regime. Some say his maximum pressure tactic is from Ronald Reagan. What is the philosophy behind Ronald Reagan’s strategy back then? And why did it work?」
「 Well, President Reagan’s dictum I think was peace through strength. And so I do think that the maximum pressure campaign contains elements that could be derived from that philosophy. But when I think of Ronald Reagan, and relevance to President Trump’s current approach, what I think about is the Reykjavík Summit where Reagan and Gorbachev talked with each other about global arms control in an open and unscripted fashion based on their own ideas and not based on some kind of understanding crafted by the bureaucrats. And I think that is what president Trump may be doing with Kim Jong-un, and it’s very rare, in fact. I don’t think that we can identify a prior precedent, other than the Reagan Gorbachev meeting, that can help us to understand the way that President Trump is approaching his meeting with Kim Jong-un.」
「Do you think Trump and Kim can actually strike a deal? If so, where would China be in the new dynamic after such an agreement?」
Scott Snyder（外交委員會對朝政策研究室主任）：「如果我們預測一下金川會將發生什麽，我認為有三種可能：好的協議、壞的協議、和達不成協議。從中共的角度來看，美國和北韓之間達成好的協議可能會改變朝鮮的戰略，這大概是中共所不希望看到的。從中共角度來看，達成一個壞的協議反而是好事，那意味著要維持現狀, 即便不會實現朝鮮無核化。從中共角度來看，達不成協議對中國來說也很糟糕，因為那意味著武力解決問題的可能性增加了。」
「So if we look at what might happen in a Trump-Kim summit, there are really three, I think, distinct possibilities: one would be a good deal, the second would be a bad deal, and the third would be no deal. From the perspective of China, a good deal, a U.S.-DPRK good deal, might also involve a change in North Korea strategic orientation. And I think China would see that as bad. A bad deal from China’s perspective would probably be seen as good because it would perpetuate the status quo even if it might not result in complete North Korean denuclearization. And no deal from China’s perspective would also be bad because it would raise the likelihood of return to military confrontation between the United States and North Korea.」
蕭茗（Host/Simone Gao）：根據最新消息，金正恩在取消了和韓國的會談之後，他現在要韓國交回早先叛逃的12名北韓服務員，但這一要求被南韓拒絕。與此同時，美中雙方宣布，為改善貿易不平衡現象，中國大陸同意大幅增加從美國的進口。 看來美方初戰告捷，我們還要關注後續發展。我們這期節目就到此為止。感謝收看《世事關心》。我是蕭茗，我們下週再會。
The latest news is that after Kim Jong-un cancelled the meeting with the South, he demanded that Seoul return 12 North Korean defectors. But Seoul said those people want to stay in the South. Meanwhile, the U.S. and China both announced China has agreed to significantly increase purchases of U.S. goods and services in order to reduce the trade imbalance between the two countries. Not a bad start for America. Let’s see what happens next. This concludes today’s program. Thanks for watching《 Zooming In》, I am Simone Gao, and see you next week.
Producer: Simone Gao
Writer : Simone Gao Jess Beatty
Editors: Julian Kuo Melodie Von Frank Lin