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When two giants meet

Apr 04,2017
This week, the eyes of the world will be on Palm Beach, Florida, as U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet for the first time at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate from April 6-7. The summit is commanding great attention given the heavy role that both countries play in world politics and the strong personalities of both heads of state. Depending on the results of the meeting, we may hopefully see the currents of the world change.

What attracts our special attention is that both leaders have singled out the growing North Korean nuclear threat as a major agenda item. After White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer remarked that both presidents would heavily discuss such thorny issues as disputes in the South China Sea, trade imbalances and North Korea, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, forecast that the focus of the meeting would be the deepening nuclear threat from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. In particular, Trump gave a warning to his counterpart Xi, saying the United States would address the issue if China is reluctant to do so.

Trump also hinted at the possibility of pressuring China to resolve the issue through America’s leverage in trade. That reflects Washington’s determination to solve the conundrum. China appears to be taking the same path. Zhu Chenghu, a retired major general and dean of China’s National Defense University of the People’s Liberation Army, said that Washington and Beijing can achieve satisfying results from the summit as both sides do not want to leave the situation unattended. All the statements make us harbor hopes for a remarkable agreement between the two leaders to clear the long nuclear shadow over the Korean Peninsula.

But we should refrain from overly optimistic views. In their first summit, Barack Obama and Xi failed in June 2013 to reach an agreement to remove the North’s nuclear arms despite a shared need for the elimination of such weapons from North Korea. This time, too, we must watch carefully to see if they end up rhetorically denouncing the recalcitrant regime’s nuclear ambitions without accomplishing tangible results. Our government must see if the nuclear issue is simply being used as a pawn in the two countries’ chess game to have the upper hand in their ongoing economic and trade conflicts.

Trump took a stance challenging Beijing’s “One China” policy before the inauguration, as seen in his much-hyped telephone conversation with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, but he ultimately changed his position. Nevertheless, we hope both leaders will offer a stepping stone in resolving the issue before it’s too late.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 4, Page 30