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Special adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in argues that diplomatic and security assurances—not sanctions relief—are the key to achieving North Korean denuclearization

Following the failure of the February summit in Vietnam between US President Donald J. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, “there is a huge trust gap between Washington and Pyongyang,” Chung-in Moon, special adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in for unification, foreign, and national security affairs, said at the Atlantic Council in Washington on June 19. “In order to break that trust gap,” Moon added, “North Korea should take some proactive actions.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on October 26 marked the first time in seven years that a serving Japanese prime minister has traveled to China for official bilateral meetings with his counterparts. Lost in the headlines of this historic summit was the fact that the two leaders discussed North Korea and recommitted their nations to close cooperation on denuclearization and the implementation of United Nations Security Council resolutions aimed at Pyongyang.

Many experts are cynical about Chinese cooperation on North Korea. They tend to focus on the unique aspects of the China-North Korea relationship, such as shared communist ties and geographical proximity, and view China’s proactive diplomacy with North Korea, starting with the first summit between Xi and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un summit in March, as an attempt to maximize its own interests, which do not coincide with those of the United States and its allies.

In the coming week, Congress will turn its attention to someone who has until now managed to fly under its radar—Mark Zuckerberg, founder and chief executive officer of Facebook. On April 10, Zuckerberg will appear as the sole witness before a joint hearing of two Senate committees—the Judiciary Committee and the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. On April 11, he will then go on to testify (again as sole witness) before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Both hearings will focus on transparency, privacy, and Facebook’s use and protection of consumer data. In his statement, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-IA), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, underscored that “users deserve to know how their information is shared and secured.” Sen. John Thune (R-SD), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, highlighted the existence of “significant concern about Facebook’s role in our democracy, bad actors using the platform, and user privacy.”
Overnight, China ended the mystery and intrigue of its secret visitor: Yes, it was North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, making his first foreign trip to Beijing. While there, Kim pledged a commitment to North Korean denuclearization.

Kim said: “It is our consistent stand to be committed to denuclearization in accordance with the will of late [North Korean] President Kim Il Sung and late [North Korean] General Secretary Kim Jong Il.”

However, the confirmation of Kim’s first foreign trip since assuming control three years ago only opened the door to the next mystery. Amidst a flurry of activity in the region focused on North Korea’s nuclear activity, what did Kim’s visit to China mean and what will happen next?

China’s president re-elected with no clear successor in sight

Xi Jinping’s re-election to a second five-year term as China’s president, without a clear successor, cements his grip on the Asian nation and raises questions about the future of economic, political, and social reforms in the country, according to Atlantic Council analysts.  

Xi was re-elected at the end of the National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Beijing on October 25. His re-election coincided with the unveiling of a new Politburo Standing Committee, the six men who will join Xi in governing China for the next five years. None of the individuals could be considered political rivals to Xi, or potential successors.

His re-election with no successor in sight allows Xi to posit himself as “the undisputed leader of China well beyond his second five-year term,” according to Jamie Metzl, a nonresident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.
In order to effectively address the growing tensions posed by North Korean nuclear capabilities, Washington needs a comprehensive strategy that will include a range of efforts, including, importantly, strengthened homeland missile defenses.

Last week, US President Donald J. Trump, referring to the North Korean missile threat, claimed that “we have missiles that can knock out a missile in the air 97 percent of the time, and if you send two of them, it’s going to get knocked out.” This comment led to a flurry of criticism of the president’s statement and of US missile defense policy in general. However, the critics, who point to technical problems and high costs and oppose improved missile defenses, miss the mark. The president’s statement is technically accurate and homeland missile defense is essential to US defense strategy toward North Korea.
The United States should update, revitalize, and defend the rules-based international order while considering “hard-headed” engagement with China, according to the latest in a series of Atlantic Council strategy papers.

This “is not a strategy designed in Washington to be imposed on the region,” said Matthew Kroenig, a nonresident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.

Kroenig, along with Miyeon Oh, a senior fellow in the Scowcroft Center, is the author of A Strategy of the Trans-Pacific Century: Final Report of the Atlantic Council’s Asia-Pacific Strategy Task Force.
The United States must seize the opportunity presented by a Chinese initiative that envisions the creation of land and sea routes that will span three continents and link more than sixty countries, according to experts who participated in a panel discussion at the Atlantic Council on October 4.

Making the case for engagement with China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Gal Luft, co-director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, said: “[The BRI] is a generational project and it will take a long time,” but, “the US needs to engage now.”

“We don’t have to agree to every component of the Belt and Road… we don’t have to buy into the whole package,” he added.
Exemplified by his extraordinary phone conversation with the leader of Taiwan and his tweets criticizing China, US President-elect Donald Trump’s undefined stance on Asia has created uncertainty and anxiety throughout the region.

“The United States is a very important strategic and economic partner,” consequently, countries throughout the region are “anxious to find out what the new administration is going to do…and anxious to work with the new administration,” said Meredith Miller, vice president of Albright Stonebridge Group.

On December 2, Trump spoke with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, in what the Washington Post reported was “a breach of protocol that could disrupt US-China ties before the inauguration.” The call was the first by a US president-elect or president since Jimmy Carter switched diplomatic recognition from China to Taiwan in 1979. Since 1979, US-China relations have been governed by the “one-China” policy under which the United States acknowledges Beijing’s claim that Taiwan is part of China.
Taiwan is poised to beat the United States by electing its first female President in 2016. Former teacher and Nationalist (KMT) candidate Hung Hsiu-chu is battling her Western-educated Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) challenger Tsai Ing-wen for the presidency. Several prominent Taiwanese polls predict a Tsai victory, said Bonnie Glaser, a Senior Advisor for Asia in the Freeman Chair in China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.


    

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