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A fruitless summit

Apr 10,2017
It is regrettable that U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping didn’t issue a joint reaction to the North Korean nuclear threat at their first summit last week. In their meetings at Trump’s Florida resort on Thursday and Friday, both leaders were expected to share the seriousness of the North’s nuclear development. But they came up empty-handed except for an agreement to ease their bilateral trade imbalance within 100 days. There was no joint press conference or communiqué after their meetings.

Before the summit, security experts pinned their hopes for progress on the nuclear issue on the meeting. On his way to the Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, Trump fueled expectations for the resolution of the issue by mentioning the possibility of Washington taking solo action against Pyongyang. The U.S. was ready to take action unless China put more pressure on North Korea, he told reporters. But the summit itself seems to have led nowhere.

In particular, Trump said nothing about China’s ongoing retaliations against us for our deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system, raising suspicion that he did not touch on the issue at all. A day after the summit, Trump told our acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn in a telephone call that he had mentioned Beijing’s retaliations against Seoul during his talks without saying what Xi’s reaction was.

Six days before the summit, Trump called Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and discussed the topics that would be brought up. But he didn’t do that with Hwang before the summit. Even after, Trump had a 45-minute telephone conversation with Abe but only talked with Hwang for 20 minutes.

As collaboration with China failed, the possibility of Uncle Sam resorting to unilateral actions will increase, such as trade sanctions, a secondary boycott on trading with North Korea and possibly military retaliation. Under such volatile conditions, a terrible result could occur if North Korean leader Kim Jong-un continues to play with fire. The Trump administration reacted to the lethal gas attack in Syria with missile launches — also a warning to North Korea that America can launch military attacks at any time.

The situation on the Korean Peninsula is a dangerous echo of the 1994 nuclear crisis when the Clinton administration seriously considered the possibility of striking the North’ nuclear facilities. It is time for us to gather all the wisdom we can.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 10, Page 30