With the entire world on pins and needles about North Korea, it is useful to step back and look at the big picture. President Trump has said from the beginning that he wants a different dynamic in U.S. relations with China, and not just on trade.
Ratcheting up the rhetoric and putting Kim Jong Un in an ever-tighter noose is a game of brinksmanship that worries many, including me. But, it’s only under extreme pressure do catastrophic (in the evolutionary biology/mathematical sense) events occur.
If you want to radically change the dynamic then you have to apply extreme pressure. I feel this is what Trump and his advisors are doing. They are appearing to “have the strength to force the moment to its crisis” to quote T.S. Eliot.
And that strength or purpose is creating large movements. Trump is a bully. It’s what he does, at least publicly. The response so far from China has been to denounce the idea of regime change in Pyongyang.
The response from Russia, through Foreign Minister (and top diplomat in the world right now), Sergei Lavrov was to announce a deal brokered between it, North Korea and China to get what Trump wants; no potential for nukes in North Korea.
"Russia together with China developed a plan which proposes 'double freezing': Kim Jong-un should freeze nuclear tests and stop launching any types of ballistic missiles, while US and South Korea should freeze large-scale drills which are used as a pretext for the North’s tests."
While also getting China what it wants, no regime change. Lavrov also insists that this is also academic as Russia insists that North Korea does not have a nuclear weapon.
I don’t think that matters much to Trump. I think he sees this as the start to a global draw-down on nuclear weapons going forward. But, it would also mean that he has to put paid his promise at his inauguration that the U.S. would no longer seek to change the government it doesn’t like.
Here is his golden opportunity to then make a deal to do just that.
The unanimous vote of the U.N. Security Council to put on greater sanctions is your clue that this time it’s serious. Russia and China are willing to assist Trump in getting North Korea, and, by extension, Iran to give up its ambitions for a nuclear weapon but only with certain other guarantees.
And, the first of which is to back off on any military intervention on the Korean peninsula.
But, Trump is going to have to give up something else to make this work. Just threatening everyone with the prospect of ICBM’s flying does not the framework for a deal make. It’s the opening offer.
It’s not the final one. China and Russia will demand then that Trump back off in one or two of Iran, Ukraine, Syria and Afghanistan, four places where U.S. intervention is the proximate cause for the chaos we are all dealing with.
My guess is that Afghanistan is the bargaining chip he’s dangling. He’ll have to add in Iran in some fashion. The sanctions bill doesn’t give him much leeway with Ukraine. Syria is pretty much a mop-up operation.
North Korea needs to be reunited with the rest of the global economy. However, given the last sixty years of U.S. foreign policy it is right to assume that having nuclear weapons makes one immune to regime change operations except the half-hearted ones we fling at Putin which he swats away like gnats during a fishing trip.
Winning this battle would change the dynamic not only of U.S./Chinese/Russian relations but it would also change the dynamic between Trump and the U.S. Deep State he’s been fighting a pitched battle against.
Because if he does pull this off, he will have the neocons by the proverbial throat to continue undoing the damage they’ve done to the world.
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