The ball in the international effort to end the nuclear threat from North Korea appears to be in China’s hands, placed there by the United States (US).
US President Donald Trump met with China President Xi Jinping during his recent trip to Asia and asked him to take stronger efforts to get North Korea’s Kim Jong Un to back down from his relentless threats to send a nuclear-armed missile across the Pacific to the US mainland.
Last week, a high-level Chinese envoy, Song Tao, went to Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, where he met with Choe Ryong Hae, a vice chairman of North Korea’ s ruling party and one of the country’s most senior leaders after Kim.
Song reportedly came with a gift for Kim and briefed Choe on the recent China Communist Party Congress in Beijing. The Korean central news agency ran an official report of their meeting, saying only that the two officials agreed that mutual ties were the “common treasure of the two peoples.”
President Trump, however, appeared to believe Song’s mission was more than the usual reiteration of unity and friendship, that he carried China’s call for North Korea to step down from its threats to the US. Trump took to Twitter to welcome Song’s mission. “We’ll see what happens,” he said.
The world, including the Philippines, is one with the US president in waiting to see what happens next.
It should be noted that North Korea has long condemned the joint US-South Korea military exercises which they describe as defensive in nature but which North Korea sees as threatening. Even now, three US aircraft carriers—the USS Ronald Reagan, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, and the USS Nimitz – with their respective strike groups of cruisers and destroyers – are in the seas near the Korean peninsula, engaged in exercises with Japanese and South Korean warships.
Fighting in the Korean War between North and South, which was supported by United Nations troops, including some from the Philippines, began in 1950 and ended in 1953. But the war was never officially ended and no peace treaty was ever signed. To this day, North Korea is seen as a threat to peace in the region, but it also sees the rest of the world as a threat to its existence.
Now that the North appears to have developed nuclear weapons along with long-range missiles, it has repeatedly raised its voice with threats of nuclear war. Chinese official Song’s mission is the latest development in this old stand-off, with US President Trump eagerly awaiting what will happen next.
Nobody appears certain of anything at this point. But if somehow some progress is made in the current efforts of China, the nations concerned, we hope, will not stop with a withdrawal of nuclear threats and of strike groups. We hope they will move on to talk long-range peace, including an official end to the Korean War of 1950.