President Donald Trump urged China on Monday to “be strong and tight” on its border with North Korea. The comments came as the President is getting ready for a historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The President said that he had “word” that in recent times the border had become too porous with a lot of things filtering in. Trump urged the Chinese government to do more and address this at least until a deal between the two countries is made. Trump added that he’s looking forward to the summit and that he really wants North Korea to be successful.
The White House is still working on the modalities of the planned meeting. This will be the first time that a sitting US President will meet a North Korean leader. China is North Korea’s most important trading partner, and the Chinese border has remained the most important route for North Korean goods and defectors. North Korea has also used the Chinese border to bring in essential goods for the regime. Tightening the border could be a huge blow to Kim Jong Un and North Korea whose economy has been crippled by years of sanctions.
The plans for the summit meeting between Kim Jong Un and President Trump were progressing smoothly until last week when North Korea threatened to pull out. The hermit kingdom was protesting the annual military drills between the US and South Korea calling them “provocative action.” But the White House was quick to play down the claims saying that North Korea was simply looking for negotiation leverage ahead of the summit.
The White House is very confident that the summit will take place. The meeting is planned to be held in Singapore. The change in tone from North Korea wasn’t entirely surprising though. However, the way in which the White House responded raised some eyebrows. Instead of the aggressive attitude that had characterized the talks between Trump and Kim Jong Un, Trump decided to cast a reconciliatory tone giving hope that the talks will happen. Nonetheless, Trump has already made it clear that he’s ready to walk away from the summit if nothing meaningful is achieved.
The talks come in the background of ongoing trade negotiations between the US and China. China is an integral part of the summit and its influence on North Korea could prove decisive in arriving at any possible deal. Trump has often been a vocal critic of Chinese trade practices. The President has criticized previous administrations for the over $350 billion trade deficit between the US and China.
Even though the White House had proposed a series of tariffs in order to bridge the gap, it seems that after intense negotiations in Beijing and Washington, a diplomatic solution could be on the cards. Bringing North Korea to the table has been considered by many as the most important foreign policy achievement by President Trump so far. A deal from the summit could cement this but a lot of analysts who have followed North Korea’s diplomacy with the west in previous years remain cautiously optimistic.