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Full-bore diplomacy in Qingdao, Quebec

Xi and Putin gather at SCO while Trump joins his G-7 partners
June 08,2018
Diplomacy is in full gear ahead of the high-stakes North Korea-U.S. summit on June 12 with American President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping leading separate regional meetings in Quebec, Canada, and Qingdao, China.

Trump and other allied leaders of the Western world were set to take part in the Group of Seven, or G-7, summit in Charlevoix, Quebec, over Friday and Saturday. The presidents of China and Russia and other Asian leaders are gathering at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Qingdao, a coastal city in northeastern Shandong Province over Saturday and Sunday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin kicks off a three-day state visit to China Friday to hold talks with Xi and also take part in the SCO, a regional security bloc.

Members of the SCO, established in 2001, are China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan. Countries with observer status are Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia.

Xi will chair the 18th SCO, which will cover issues such as terrorism, extremism and separatism, drug trafficking and cybercrime.

It is a platform for Xi to promote China’s Belt and Road initiative to develop infrastructure between Eurasian countries and bolster connectivity and regional economic cooperation.

In addition to releasing a Qingdao Declaration, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said last week that more than 10 agreements on security, economic cooperation and people-to-people exchanges will be signed during the summit, reported Xinhua News Agency.

However, the meeting could also focus on the denuclearization of North Korea and send signals of some kind to Trump and the United States.

India is a new member of the SCO and is also a country that Washington has courted as it pushes its new Indo-Pacific strategy, seen by some as a containment of China.

Trump heads into the G-7 summit following the United States’ withdrawal from the 2016 Paris climate accord and the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal. It also comes after the United States slapped tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union.

The G-7 industrialized nations include Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. The European Union also attends the meeting.

Trump has complained about having to attend the G-7 summit as it comes just before his talks in Singapore next Tuesday with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, The Associated Press reported Wednesday, citing two people with knowledge of his thinking.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was scheduled for another summit with Trump in Washington on Thursday, after one in Mar-a-Lago, Florida, in late April, before they both head to the G-7 meeting in Canada.

Abe was quoted by The Associated Press as telling reporters at the airport in Tokyo before departing for Washington that he wants to make sure he is “on the same page” with Trump ahead of the first ever U.S.-North Korea summit, to push forward nuclear and missile issues, deal with the abduction of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s and “make for a successful summit.”

Japan has taken a hard-line approach to North Korean denuclearization, calling for the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of all the weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles of all ranges. It also fears that a denuclearization deal between Trump and Kim may lead to reduction of U.S. troops on the Korean Peninsula.

Xi and Putin could discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in their bilateral talks.

Last July, China and Russia came up with a joint initiative for denuclearization and de-escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula that was called a freeze-for-freeze, or double suspension, in which North Korean would declare a moratorium on its nuclear and missile tests in exchange for South Korea and the United States halting joint military exercises.

Russia’s RT network Wednesday quoted Putin ahead of his China visit as calling Trump’s decision to engage in direct talks with North Korea as “very courageous and mature,” and also lauded North Korea’s “unprecedented steps towards easing tensions,” which he said had been “unexpected.”

But Russia “regrets” the U.S. and South Korean military exercises on the Korean Peninsula, adding that it could be damaging for prospects of dialogue, and also indicated that it’s natural for North Korea to demand security guarantees after “seeing tragic events in Libya or Iraq.”

Trump has previously stated his discomfort with the notion of China or Russia swaying his talks with North Korea.

In late May, shortly before calling off his summit with North Korea’s leader, Trump said he was a “little disappointed” that there was a “change in attitude from Kim Jong-un” following his second summit with Chinese President Xi in Dalian at the beginning of that month. Last week, he said he “didn’t like” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Pyongyang.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]