There’s still no word as to whether or not the proposed summit between President Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un is going to happen in May, but we may not be the only country on his dance card. Time Magazine is one of many outlets reporting some unusual sightings in Beijing this week. A strange train showed up in China which crossed the border from North Korea. Civilians and tourists were ushered away from the area where it arrived and the passengers from the train reportedly climbed into vehicles with darkened windows and were whisked away. Many are convinced that one of them was Kim Jong-un.
The arrival of North Korea’s Supreme Leader in Beijing would be historic in many respects. It would be the first foreign visit by Kim Jong Un since he ascended to the leadership of the Hermit Kingdom in 2011. If he meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping, it would be his first encounter with another head of state.
Kim’s presumed arrival, first reported by Japanese media and then supported via three anonymous sources by Bloomberg, comes as the Swiss-educated 34-year-old prepares for historic summits with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in April and U.S. President Donald Trump in May to discuss denuclearization…
“It’s a move stemming from confidence after completing his nuclear weapons program — he’s seeking a deal,” a senior former North Korean official who defected to the South tells TIME. “He looks a lot more wild than his father or grandfather [former regime leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il], but I have seen him grow as a politician since his inauguration. I’ve seen him grow as a strategic thinker.”
Foreign relations have grown increasingly complicated of late, a fact which has become increasingly obvious in several parts of the world. Turkey is one of the prime examples, but eastern Asia is just as sticky. We’re supposed to be economic allies with China and they’ve been largely backing our sanctions against North Korea. South Korea and Japan are some of our closest allies, but they’re so nervous about Kim’s nukes and the possibility of a disastrous war in their neighborhood that they’re far more likely to be desperate for some sort of deal than we are.
China remains the lynchpin in the entire puzzle, though. For too long they flaunted previous sanctions and kept Kim and his predecessors afloat. Their recent diplomatic break with North Korea and imposition of much stiffer sanctions has obviously hurt, so Kim would clearly love to patch things up with them. What sort of a deal does he have to offer, though? We’re still insisting on the dismantling of the North’s nuclear weapons program, but China has always enjoyed having North Korea as a buffer zone between themselves and our forces in South Korea. If Kim convinces Xi Jinping that he’s never going to pull the trigger first, China may be willing to cut a deal to ease up on North Korea without bothering to consult us.
The fact that we’re currently entering into a trade war with China over tariffs and having a series of naval standoffs near their artificial islands in the South China Sea likely isn’t making them feel like one big happy family with the United States these days. If this meeting is actually happening and China walks out of the discussions with an offer that Japan, South Korea and their other neighbors don’t feel they can pass up, we may be left out in the cold, facing a North Korea which is now a stable member of the global nuclear weapons club.
I hope somebody at the White House is on top of this. Kim Jong-un is, beyond doubt, a madman, but he seems to also be crazy like a fox. If he outmaneuvers us on this one it’s going to represent a massive failure on the part of the United States and it could completely reconfigure the power structure in Asia for a long time to come.