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OK, So Maybe It Isn’t Entirely John Bolton’s Fault If The Trump/Kim Summit Falls Through

We’ve Been Blaming Trump’s National Security Adviser For Meddling. But China’s Been Interfering Too.

China’s hand is becoming more evident as North Korea continues to aim salvos of heightened rhetoric at the U.S. For instance, today North Korea ridiculed Vice President Pence after he too started throwing around references to Libya (which is one of Bolton’s favorite things to do, although Pence did it in an even more aggressive context). And it threatened to walk away from the talks, while at the same time U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went out of his way to emphasize the talks are still scheduled for June 12th in Singapore.

One line North Korea has still been very careful not to cross: direct criticism of Trump himself.

Trump did comment on China’s role earlier this week during his meeting with South Korea’s President Moon. Saying: “I will say I’m a little disappointed, because when Kim Jong-un had the meeting with President Xi, in China, the second meeting — the first meeting we knew about — the second meeting — I think there was a little change in attitude from Kim Jong-un. So I don’t like that.Here’s a slightly more extensive clip of Trump’s comments, which include him also praising China’s President Xi for showing him a good time when he visited in November. Trump: “I don’t think anybody has ever been treated better in China — ever in their history.” (Click on the photo to watch):

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And yes, there was a second more low-key “secret” meeting between Kim Jong-un and China’s President Xi earlier this month in the coastal city of Dalian, after their first widely-publicized “secret” meeting in Beijing.

Why would China be interfering? We think because it was truly caught off guard by the speed at which North-South and North-USA talks were proceeding, and it wanted to slow things way down. For years, North Korea has literally acted as a buffer between China and the 35,000 U.S. troops in South Korea. But this is more about economics, we think: China wants to be sure it remains North Korea’s predominant trading partner if Kim begins to normalize relationships with the rest of the world. And despite China’s long-standing political and philosophical ties with North Korea, this will be a challenge, because it’s only natural for North Korea to gravitate toward South Korea, given a common language and shared ethnic background and culture.

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Map of Dalian, China showing its proximity to Pyongyang, Seoul and Beijing

Meanwhile, North Korea went ahead today and destroyed its main nuclear bomb test site, as it had promised. This involved blowing up tunnels under a mountain which has already partially collapsed. A select group of international media was invited to the demolition, but there was some confusion about what they’d witnessed, since for obvious reasons (or other reasons) they were kept at a distance.

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