Trade and North Korea have been two constants in the tweets of President Donald Trump since he took office, so following his fractious exchanges with Kim Jong-un ahead of his first visit to Asia, it comes as no surprise that the Korean crisis and trade have been the focus of his talks so far.
It was the case in Japan and South Korea. And it is very likely the case now in China, where he is talking with President Xi Jinping.
After his war rhetoric in recent weeks, Trump struck a more conciliatory and optimistic note on Tuesday in Seoul, expressing his strongest inclination yet that he was willing to deal with rising tensions with North Korea through diplomacy, urging Pyongyang to “come to the table” and “make a deal”.
But, once again, he also emphasised the military firepower the US can bring to bear.
Even from the perspective of crisis prevention, Trump should be availing himself of the opportunities presented by his visits to the three countries, and his anticipated meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, to manoeuvre a consensus on how to deliver on the progress he says he sees. After all, as some US lawmakers noted last Saturday, “there are no good military options”.
Beijing has repeatedly encouraged Washington and Pyongyang to carry out direct dialogue as this is the only way to increase their understanding of each other’s positions.
Kim Jong-un should take Trump’s offer seriously. Ignoring this diplomatic olive branch, he may miss a historic opportunity for improving ties with Washington.
The restraint both Washington and Pyongyang have demonstrated so far – Trump steering clear of the Demilitarised Zone and Pyongyang not carrying out a missile or nuclear test for the longest period in recent months – is a hopeful sign that both prefer to find a peaceful solution to their predicaments.
Beijing has made relentless efforts to facilitate the peaceful settlement of the Korean peninsula nuclear issue through political and diplomatic means, and it will continue to play a constructive role by promoting tangible moves to bring the Korean peninsula nuclear issue back to the track of political settlement at an early date.
While Trump did not elaborate on what he meant when telling US and South Korean military commanders on Tuesday, “Ultimately it will all work out, it always works out, it has to work out.”
We just hope he was speaking on the same wavelength as South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who said he hoped Trump’s visit would be a turning point in the crisis and that the two leaders had agreed to resolve the nuclear issue “in peaceful manner” that would “bring permanent peace”.