Looking like an errant school boy caught stealing the stock from the tuck shop for a midnight feast, Kim Jong-Un turned up in the Chinese capital for a meeting with the leader for life President Xi Jinping. It was Kim’s first trip outside North Korea since he became its dictator, and has created much excitement.
Why has this happened and what does it mean? Here are seven short observations:
1) It is fashionable to praise Barack Obama. Donald Trump, his critics say, devilishly manipulates Facebook and the internet to win. Obama, his fans say, used the internet in 2008 and 2012 to create a wonderful community that powered him to victory. The Obama withdrawlist foreign policy was similarily praised at the time as the height of sophistication. It turns out to have been profoundly ineffective. Trump – whether or consciously or not – takes a different approach. He talks tough and gets stuck in. It is unconventional but it tips opponents off balance and creates movement. The threats from Trump of fire and fury against North Korea do seem to have spooked the regime.
2) The North Korean regime is extremely vulnerable after rocket boy’s prancing about. It relies on China for its food and fuel. The sanctions by China, which wants to bring Kim to heel, to avoid economically-disruptive regional conflict and a US strike, are biting. China also could do without a trade war with the US. Shutting down Kim and pleasing the Americans could help in that respect.
3) I am not suggesting for one second that Donald Trump is a foreign policy genius. Most of his policy seems to be rooted in random gut instinct, mixed with showmanship. It’s a celebrity wrestling presidency. Right now, on North Korea and China, it seems to be working.
4) Watch Japan carefully, and be wary of Trump selling out the Japanese. They are the main post-1945 good guys in the neighbourhood. They’re a democracy with the rule of law. They are proper friends to the West. Their bankers first arrived in the City of London in the mid-1960s. They were among the first to spot the potential, and became our partners. Trade compels them to deal more with China now, but they have prospered under the defence umbrella of America. Japan is already having to think more about organising its own defence. This should be encouraged, as the country is a bulwark against Chinese power and potential American betryal.
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5) Does this sudden “peace process” culminate at some point in a great power summit to create a new settlement in the Pacific, with North Korea giving up nuclear ambitions, guaranteed by the Chinese? There’s a thought. No longer impossible to envisage.
6) I bet Trump and Rocket Man Ping Pong become friends. Trump will introduce him to golf and within five years there will be a Trump-sponsored course and resort in North Korea.
7) North Korea remains a Socialist hell hole in which the population are starved, tortured and imprisoned.