The historic summit between Kim and Trump in Singapore could give Asia a period of peace. And if the situation remains stable, China will emerge as the strategic winner of the recent diplomatic exchanges.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in is the true architect of this extraordinary rapprochement between the US and North Korea. However, at the moment it seems that Beijing is gaining the most from the new international order. Beyond the media aspects and those linked to the document solemnly signed by Trump and Kim, the real news of the Singapore meeting is the one revealed by Trump during his press conference before leaving Singapore. The president of the United States has specified that in the face of Kim’s promises to destroy an unidentified missile-testing site, the United States undertook to no longer carry out joint exercises with South Korea.
Trump justified this choice in the name of economic savings. However, the revelation is powerful: sanctions remain, the military bases remain, but exercises are stopped. Therefore, we are moving toward the ideal situation for Beijing: a North Korea neutralized from its military fervor, and a South Korea that is beginning to distance itself from Washington.
The reason for Xi Jinping’s joy in the face of this scenario is not just about military strategies. China is strengthening its army, especially the navy, and it is moving toward a hyper-specialized military corps made up of elite teams, even if it still lags far behind the US in that field. That is not the point that interests Beijing. China now needs ideal conditions for its economic development, for the New Silk Road and for the sale of robotics and products related to artificial intelligence abroad. They need an Asia that is not turbulent.
China’s relations with Seoul have been strained for a long time. There have been commercial boycotts, even of South Korean pop stars. With the advent of Moon and his policy of openness toward Beijing, the climate has changed. China has begun to reopen trade relations, and South Korea could provide significant benefits to Chinese companies and Xi’s aims in the region. All the more that now Vietnam is once again contesting the Chinese presence and influence on its territory, China needs Seoul.
Trump’s news about military exercises potentially strengthens China in a region whose balance is being redefined. Then there is North Korea. With Kim’s regime safe and militarily calm, the territory above the 38th parallel becomes interesting. For Seoul, of course. But for Beijing, for a thousand reasons.
And also for Russia and Japan. Moscow has already said it is ready to contribute to infrastructure: not by chance Lavrov was in Pyongyang a few days ago. Japan said that if Kim returns the kidnapped Japanese then it is ready to cooperate for an economic revival of the country. Peace would thus open a new phase in Asia.
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