Jul 19, 2018
The Pangoal International Situation Monthly (Vol.15)
The Pangoal International Situation Monthly (Vol.15)

The Pangoal Institution

International Situation Monthly

June 2018 (Vol.15)


CPC Central Committee Again Holds the Central Conference on Work Relating to Foreign Affairs

North Korea-US Summit Held in Singapore

The G-7 Summit and the SCO Summit Held Concurrently

CPC CentralCommittee Again Holds the Central Conference on Work Relating to Foreign Affairs

Four years after the previous meeting, the Central Conference on WorkRelating to Foreign Affairs was held in Beijingon June 22nd and 23rd. This conference is the first to beheld subsequent to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), and its most important outcome is that it has established the guiding position of Xi Jinping's thought on diplomacy.

Faced with the vicissitudes of the international situation, the conference highlighted ten aspects of the thought that we shall adhere to: To uphold the authority of the CPC Central Committee as the overarching principle and strengthen the centralized, unified leadership of the Party on external work; Toadvance major country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics to fulfill the mission of realizing national rejuvenation; To take preserving world peace andpursuing common development as the purpose to promote the building of acommunity with a shared future for humanity; To enhance strategic confidencewith the socialism with Chinese characteristics as the support; To forge aheadthe Belt and Road construction in the principle of achieving shared growththrough discussion and collaboration; To follow the path of peacefuldevelopment on the basis of mutual respect and win-win cooperation; To developglobal partnerships while advancing diplomatic agenda; To lead the reform ofthe global governance system with the concept of fairness and justice; To takenational core interests as the bottom line to safeguard China’s sovereignty,security and development interests; and to nurture a distinctive style ofChinese diplomacy by combining the fine tradition of external work and the characteristics of times.

In his address to the conference, Xi Jinping requested all staff in the sector of diplomacy and foreign affairs to “form an accurate understanding ofhistory, the overall situation, and China’s role and position in theworld pattern”. As for the accurate understanding of history, Xi suggested to not only observe the current international situation, but also review the past,summarize historical laws, and look forward to the future in order to betterunderstand the trend of history. In regard to the accurate understanding of theoverall situation, Xi underlined not only the observation of phenomena anddetails, but also a deep appreciation of the essence and overall situation inorder to focus on resolving the main problems and their key aspects and to avoidgetting lost in the complex and changing international situation. Xi also asked the staff to have a clear understanding of China’s status and role in the evolving world pattern and formulate principles andpolicies of China’s external work in a scientific way through cool-headed analysis of international phenomena and China’s relations with the rest of the world.

Meanwhile, Xi called for an in-depth analysis of the law of how theinternational situation changes when the world comes into its transitional period,and an accurate grasp of the basic characteristics of the external environment China is facing at this historical juncture, in order to better plan and facilitate thecountry’s work on foreign affairs.

The Central Conference on Work Relating to Foreign Affairs is held against an important background: there is a possibility of an escalation of China-US trade frictions; China-US relations may risk heading towards a “new Cold War”; the complexities in the South China Sea dispute and Taiwan issue increase again; and profound changes are brewing on the Korean peninsula. The keynote of the conference indicates that China’s top leaders are making grim assessments of the country’s external environment. In particular, as their understanding of China-US relations is changing, the top leaders are determined to proactively seek solutions to address pressure and challenges while sticking to the path of reform and opening-up. This heralds new, profound adjustments to China’s relation with the rest of the world and to relevant domestic measures.

Among all the complex challenges facing Chinese diplomacy, the coreproblem is how to assess the strategic direction of the US policy towards China. The strategic community in China has kicked off debates on China’s policy towards the US, and most tend to believe that the US views of China have substantially changed regarding China as its principal, strategic rival. The Trump administration wages a trade war with China, ostensibly to address issues of trade imbalance and unfair trade practices; however, the moveis actually aimed at containing China’spotential to eclipse the USeconomically and, further down the line, besieging China in strategic terms. Recently, China and the US have confronted one another on certain issues. Does that mean the bilateral relations will plunge into a “new Cold War”? That still depends on the two states’  interactionon specific issues like economy and trade, the Taiwan issue, the South China Sea dispute, and the North Korean nuclear issue.

North Korea-US Summit Held in Singapore

On the afternoon of June 10th, North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un arrived in Singapore on an Air China chartered plane. That evening, the US President Donald Trump left the 44th G7 summit in Quebec, Canada, four hours earlierthan originally planned, and arrived in Singaporeon “Air Force One” after stopping over in the Greek island of Crete.

At 9 a.m. Singapore time, on June 12th, Kim and Trump started their meeting at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island.They shared a handshake before the one-on-one meeting. After that, they had adiscussion joined by senior aides: Kim was accompanied by Kim Yong Chol and RiSu Yong, two Vice-Chairmen of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), as well as Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho; joining Trump were Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Advisor John Bolton, and Chief of Staff John Kelly.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that “the two leaders shared their opinions about thepractical measures that are important to accomplish peace and stability on the Korean Peninsulaand end the hostility between North Koreaand the US.” Trump stated that he believed the summit would lead to an improvement in the bilateral relations. Thanks to the proactive peace-loving measures taken by North Korea’s top leader from the outset of thisyear, an atmosphere of peace and stability has been created on the Korean Peninsulaand in the region, though distressed with the extreme danger of armed clashonly a few months ago. Noting that many problems occurred due to deep-rooteddistrust and hostility existing between the two countries, Kim said in order toachieve peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and realize itsdenuclearization, the two countries should commit themselves, out of mutual understanding, to refraining from antagonizing each other and take legal and institutional steps as a guarantee. North Koreaand the US need to take practical measures at an early date in order to address the issues discussed at the talks and the joint statement.

At noon, the North Koreanand US delegations moved into a luncheon, during which Kim Yo-jong, leader Kim’s younger sister, also joined them. After the luncheon, the top leaders took awalk together. At 1:42 p.m. Singapore time, Kim and Trump signed a joint statement outlining four core commitments: the United States and the DPRK commit to establish new US-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the people of the two countries for peace and prosperity; the United States and the DPRK will combine their efforts to build a lasting, stable, and peaceful regimeon the Korean Peninsula; reaffirming the April 27, 2018, Panmunjom Declaration,the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula; the United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, includingthe immediate repatriation of those already identified.

Subsequent to the signingceremony, Kim and Trump said goodbye to each other after a photo session. According to the KCNA, Kim invited Trump to visit Pyongyangat a convenient time and Trump invited Kim to visit the US. “The two top leaders gladly accepted each other’s invitation, convinced that it wouldserve as another important occasion for improving North Korea-US relations,” the KCNA concluded.

Following his meeting with Kim, Trump held a press conference at the Capella Hotel. He thanked ChairmanKim Jong-un for stepping toward “a bright new future”, stating that the tensions between two countries are about to end and “we’re ready to write a new chapter between our nations” to embrace peace. Meanwhile, Trump stressed that, as it takes a long time to pull off complete denuclearization, the sanctions will remain in effect. Additionally, Trump also noted that the US will not reduce its military presence in South Korea but may end its military exercises — as “that has to do with the military expense”. When a reporter asked him about “the military consequences for North Korea if they don’t follow through on the commitments”, “I don’t want to be threatening,” replied Trump.

The Kim-Trump summit in Singapore is historically significant, not only in that the top leaders of two long-term enemynations held their first face-to-face talks, but also in that they released a joint statement by officially signing a document. This, combined with the inter-Koreansummit, the China-North Korea summit, the upcoming North Korea-Russia summit,and the principles established on the Seventh WPK Congress and the Third Plenary Meeting of the Seventh WPK Central Committee, initiates the process of achieving North Korea’s complete denuclearization, normalizing North Korea-US relations, and the establishment of a peace mechanism for the peninsula.

Though the joint statement mainly addresses principles, it actually overtops a joint communiqué by makingclear, in writing, the two sides’ commitments to mutual non-aggression andimproved bilateral relations. Meanwhile, in order to seek a common understanding of the principles, they have had intensive preparatory consultations and even exchanged their position papers; though the specific terms in the papers have not been disclosed, they presumably involve various details including North Korea’s denuclearization steps and timetable and the security guarantees the US can offer in return. The key purpose of these consultations is to enable an exchange between North Korea’s demand for CVIG(complete, verifiable, and irreversible guarantee) and the US vision of CVID (complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization). Hence, overall, they demonstrate the doctrines of commitment for commitment, action for action, disarmament for security, and denuclearization for peace. Meanwhile, the consultationshave also defined moral and legal duties for the two sides in the future, leaving considerable room for their progress towards the specified directions.

On June 17th, Japanese foreign minister Tarō Kōno said in an interview aired by NHK that the US has filed a list of 47 demands that North Koreashould fulfill under the denuclearization framework. The US believes that thenotion of “complete denuclearization” should include the elimination — in a verifiableand irreversible way — of the nuclear stockpile and other types of weapons ofmass destruction, including chemical and biological ones, as well as missilesand all relevant facilities. If these demands are carried out, North Koreansmay receive a document which states that the US will not attack North Koreaor cross the 38th parallel to topple the existing regime. According to thereport of Kyodo News on June 16th, Japanand other beneficiaries may work together to shoulder the costs of North Korea’s denuclearization, and an international organization may be created specificallyas a way of moving forward on the issue.

Strictly speaking, the Kim-Trumpsummit in Singaporemarks the starting point of a peace process. A package of measures, including aseries of bilateral and multilateral meetings, negotiations, and examinations, will be taken to put a real end to the confrontation and hostilities on the peninsula. This process will be tougher, longer, and more tortuous than the preparation for the Kim-Trump summit, let alone the possibility of setbacks.

To follow up, the topleaders of North Korea and the US will seek to visit each other’s countries. Meanwhile, both countries, together with South Korea,are very likely to have a summit and announce the end of warfare in the nearfuture.

On June 14th, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited China to notify the Chinese government of the Singapore summit. During hismeeting with Pompeo, Chinese President Xi Jinping extended his “heart-felt congratulations” regarding the summit. The issues concerning the Korean Peninsula are complex and must be resolved step by step, Xi said. China hopes the two sides respect each other, work for the shared goal, and make continuous efforts to the political settlement of the issues. China firmly adheres to the concept of denuclearization of the peninsula, its peaceand stability, and insists on solving problems through dialogue, Xi said,adding that China will continue to play an active and constructive role and work with relevantparties, including the United  States, to promote the political solution ofthe issue.

On June 19th, Kim Jong-un arrived in Beijing via a special plane, starting a two-day visit to China.This was his third visit to Chinasince the end of March. Instead of making a secret trip, both Chinese and North Korean governments released the news as Kim was about to land in the Chinesecapital, which showcases North  Korea’s increasing confidence and compliancewith international norms when dealing with its foreign relations.

During his talks with Kim,Xi Jinping stated that, with the joint efforts of both sides, China-DPRK relationswill certainly benefit the two countries and the two peoples. With the joint efforts of China, the DPRK,and other related parties, the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asiawill surely embrace a bright future of peace, stability, development, and prosperity.Kim vowed to work with Chinese comrades to upgrade bilateral ties to a new highand play their due roles in safeguarding world, and regional, peace andstability.

During his visit to China, Kim Jong-un visited the National Agriculture Technology Innovation Park of Chinese Academyof Agricultural Sciences and Beijing Metro Network Control Center.

The Peninsula Peace Process has alreadybeen launched, but there are still uncertainties. The biggest variable remaining to be seen is whether North  Korea will fulfill its commitment to abandonits nuclear program as scheduled. Actually, North Korea held talks with the US as a self-assumed de facto nuclear state, without any trust in the US. It’s nearly impossible for North Koreanot leaving room for maneuver on its nuclear and missile capability, which could be extremely hard to verify. 

Substantial progress has been made inthe denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula by abandoning nuclear test sites in North Korea.However, “38 North”, a US website devoted to analysis of North Korea’s nuclearand missile issues, observed through its satellite images that the earth-volumeand stone-volume calculated during the Punggye-ri nuclear test site explosiondid not match with the tunnel length it claimed to shut down, which shows North Korea might have “hidden” a 7,000-8,000-meter-long tunnel in the northern mountainous area. Meanwhile, in technical terms, there are still many tough issues to be addressed, such as the settlement of scientific researchers, disposal of nuclear materials and nuclear test equipment, and the dismantling of long-range missile launchers. Hence, there is still a long way to go before the complete denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula is realized.

North Korea has claimed that they are shutting down four missile-launching bases and the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, with the intention to reassure the US. However, “38 North” published an article on June 21st stating that there were few visible signsthat the Sohae Satellite Launching Station was demolished after the June 12th summit, while South Koreahas been urging North Koreato make clear its denuclearization road map as soon as possible.

The website analyzed its satellite images of June 21st and found that improvements to the infrastructureat North Korea’s Yongbyon Atomic Energy Research Center “are continuing at a rapid pace”. Modificationsto the 5 MWe plutonium production reactor’s cooling system appear complete, and a building of an unknown purpose has been newly erected near the cooling tower, indicating that North Korea’s top leaders might not have issued any clear order to stop nuclear testpreparations. The Ministry of Unification of South Korea said that they arefollowing this issue closely.

According to a report released by WashingtonPost on June 29th, an official within the Defense Intelligence Agency claimed they believed North Koreahad been revving up the production of enriched uranium for nuclear weapons at secret sites and hidden facilities to have more say in the future negotiations with the US.

The second issue is the US’s fulfillment of its promises. Trump urgently needs to demonstrate positive diplomatic results before the mid-term election. How much of this decision is about the will to build peace on the peninsula is yet to be seen. In the negotiations with North Korea,the White House was checked by the hardliners in the US. What’s more, the intensified political polarization in the US also casts a shadow over the approval of the peace agreement, armistice agreement,and agreement on the establishment of diplomatic ties by Congress. Given Trump’s fickle behavior in the past, North Korea will always worry about becoming the second “Libya”.

There are elements holding back,interfering with, and undermining the consensus of the Singapore Summit that cannot be ignored, be it in the US or in North Korea, whereas failure to honor the agreement was the reason this issue wasn’t resolved in the past. Will the approaching 2020 US Presidential Election herald the “political death” of the Singapore Agreement, if it has not producedsubstantive fruits? It remains to be seen.

After the North Korea-US Summit, an influx of criticism emerged in the US for Trump “giving away too much”to Kim Jong-un. On June 13th, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “cut losses” during his visit to South Korea by declaring to the public that the US hopes to see “major disarmament” in North Korea within two and a half years, that is, before the end of President Trump’s first term in office. However, on June 25th during the interview with CNN, Pompeo said, “I am notgoing to put a timeline on it (North Korean denuclearization), whether that's two months, six months”, “it is too soon to expect a detailed road map (for denuclearization) after 40 years of tensions between the two countries”, and “we are committed to moving forward in an expeditious moment to see if we can achieve what both leaders set out to do". On the same day, the spokesperson for the US Department of Defense, Ms. White, responded on Twitter “DoD remains committed to supporting the ongoing diplomatic process with the DPRK, of which there is nospecific timeline”. The differing positions within the Trump Administration show that the follow-up negotiations between the US and North Korea may not necessarilybe encouraging and will definitely bring up more questions to the Trump administration.

The third issue is the risks contained in the revolution of North Korea. North Korea appears to genuinely intend to focus on economic development and the improvement of peoples’ livelihood. Also, after years ofpractice they have accumulated certain experience in marketization within the framework of a planned economy. It made logical sense to tighten the belt to develop nuclear weapons and then exchange it for the secure environment necessary for economic development. North Korean leadership has realized that nuclear weapons are not everything. If it continues “putting up a desperate fight” in the face of the “harshest-ever” international sanctions, pressure will only increase. Yet, it is unlikely that North Korea will follow the example of China to embark on apath of all-round reform and opening up. Rather, it is more likely to focus on developing a number of economic development and opening-up zones and to actively engage expatriate labor so as to ease the shock of thehermit state's encounter with the “dazzling world”.

Although the normalization of North Korea-US relations may experience ups and downs due to the sharp differences on the issue of denuclearization between the two sides, North Korea has seized the opportunity to build ties with Russia, China, and South Korea in advance. Intensive academic and official contacts have been carried out between Russia and North Korea, discussions have been held to strengthen interconnections, and projects have been resumed, such as natural gas pipelines, which connect Russia, North Korea, and South Koreawith rare earth mining in North Korea. Russia has also begun to offer scientific and technological support to North Korea and has actively promoted humanitarian assistance to North Korea on international occasions. Top leadersof China and North Korea have met three times already. China supports North Korea shifting its strategic focus to economic development and staying the course in light of its own national conditions.

After years of ups and downs, especially as the Korean Peninsula has been on the verge of warfarein recent years, the international community is now more aware of the ins andouts, as well as the rights and wrongs, of the North Korean nuclear issue than ever before in history. The North Korean nuclear issue has grown from an issuemerely between the DPRK and the US to a contradiction between North Korea and the entire international community. The reason the North Korean nuclear issue has risen and fallen, with the overall situation showing a spiraling downturnin the past decade, is actually the failure of both the US and North Korea to fulfill their commitments — North Korea was “doing one thing under the cover ofanother”, secretly buying time for nuclear and missile research and developmentby keeping negotiations on the table; while the US stuck to its hostilepolicies towards North Korea, with the intention to overthrow its regime, and failed to fulfill its commitment to offer humanitarian and economic assistanceto North Korea. Their failure to fulfill commitments leads to the growing lack of trust between the two sides. This time, the entire international communityhas witnessed the signing of the joint statement in the North Korea-US Summit, which may thus prevent history from repeating itself.

The G-7 Summit and the SCO Summit Held Concurrently

The 44th G-7 Summit was held in the town of Lamarbai, Quebec, Canada on June 8th and 9th. The summit issued a joint communiqué focusing on trade issues, claiming that the leaders “underline the crucial role of a rule-based international trading system and continue to fight protectionism”, “strive to reduce tariff barriers, non-tariff barriers and subsidies”, and “work together to enforce existing international rules and develop new rules where needed to foster a truly levelplaying field”. Also, the communiqué also addresses issues such as energy, theenvironment, oceans, gender equality, etc.

The most serious infighting among western countries in recent years happened during this summit: their sharp differences on trade issues concealed all consensuses. The other six countries believe that the US has imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum from other countries and sought to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement, which violates the principle of free trade. Nevertheless, the US insists that trade should be based on “bilateralism” and the US cannotalways be the one bearing “unilateral losses”.

The topic of this summit suggests that the organizer originally intended to make the Western Group more united, which, however, became counterproductive. The media perceived an atmosphere where the other six countries kept pressing Trump on the trade issue, which turned “G7” into “G6 vs G1”. In a one-on-one meeting with Trump, the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continued to emphasize the significance of steel and aluminum exports for the safety of Canada, and even the North American alliance, and tried to explain to Trump the importance of industrialchain cooperation in North America. After Trump’s early departure from Canadato Singapore, Trudeau, at the press conference, criticized the US for the tariffs on Europe, Canada, and Mexico, called it “insulting”, and vowed to“always protect Canadian workers and Canadian interests.” On July 1st, Canada began imposing retaliatory tariffs on US goods.

Irritated by Trudeau’s statement, Trump not only publicly instructed the US representatives not to endorse the communiqué, but also tweeted on Air Force One to scold that Trudeau “acted so meek and mild” and accused him of being “very dishonest and weak”.

Another divergence lies inthe policy towards Russia. Still intending to repair relations with Russia,Trump proposed at the summit to reintegrate Russia into the G7. The US President’s National Security Advisor, John Bolton, actively prepared for the US-Russia Summit. In the absence of communication with the US allies, the summit is scheduled to be held in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16th, just before the NATO summit that Trump has already confirmed to attend, causing dissatisfaction in Europe.

However, despite quarrels of the seven western countries, it is noteworthy that the US and its alliesstill carried out in-depth coordination on trade issues. The consensus reached includes the following points: the US proclaims tariffs on Chinese exports tothe US; Japan imposes anti-dumping duties on some steel products from China; and Japan and the EU have, respectively, complained to the WTO about China’s “discriminatory patent licensing regulations”.

Another notable signal is Article 19 of the Joint Communiqué: “We remain concerned about the situation in the East and South China Seas and reiterate our strong opposition to any unilateralactions that could escalate tensions and undermine regional stability and the international rules-based order. We urge all parties to pursue demilitarizationof disputed features.”

In contrast, the 18th Summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which was held in Qingdao, Shandong Province, China and lasted from June 9th to 10th, was grand and successful. According to Wang Yi, State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs of China, compared with those in previous years, this summit “is the largest one running at the highest level, delivering the most outcomes, and creating a series of records of the SCO.” Heads of the 12 member states signedand witnessed 23 cooperation documents, which highlighted the “Shanghai Spirit”, formed the awareness of a community with a shared future, put forward the SCO propositions on global governance, and promoted a more equitable and balanced international order on the basis of equal, common, comprehensive,cooperative, and sustainable security. The outside world attaches importance to the “political symbolic significance” that the two summits were held at the same time. It is believed that this conveys a signal that the two groups will stand up against each other, especially with different positions between China and Russia and the West on the rules of international order. The question was even raised whether two world orders are forming and how the relationship between them is progressing. Although the SCO agenda is narrower than that of the G7, its central concern is still to combat separatism, extremism, and terrorism. It is still difficult to expand regional cooperation to the economic and trade field, but the emphasis on diverse civilizations and the “new international relationship” indicates that the SCO is more in the future interest of the international community than the G7, which adheres to individualistic heroism and exclusive group thinking.■

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