Source: Global Times Published: 2018-4-22
Since the beginning of this year, North Korea has adjusted its overall foreign policy. In the past two years, it adopted a confrontational approach toward the international community. Despite all the criticisms and sanctions, Pyongyang continued with its nuclear and missile tests.
But this year, it has apparently changed its stance. Pyongyang has not made any provocative moves and has constantly demonstrated goodwill.
The following reasons contributed to the change.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un believes that his country`s nuclear and missile technologies are mature, a bargaining chip when negotiating with the US.
Last year, the United Nations toughened its sanctions on North Korea by passing four resolutions, and North Korea felt the pain.
Pyongyang also thinks that it is in a dangerous situation as the US leadership is unpredictable. North Korea used to behave in a mysterious way in engaging with the world. But now the US has adopted a vague approach, making North Korea worry the US might resort to military means.
One thing notable is that former US national security advisor H.R. McMaster was replaced by John Bolton by US President Donald Trump. McMaster showed little interest in North Korea as he focused on the Iranian nuclear crisis. But Bolton holds a hostile attitude toward North Korea and publicly supports military means to solve the North Korean nuclear crisis.
Kim`s sudden visit to Beijing in late March shocked Western diplomatic and strategic circles. Obviously North Korea has concerns about personnel changes within the US, and so Kim chose that time to visit China.
China is a powerful neighbor. No matter how Pyongyang sees Beijing, it is well aware that China will play a crucial role in solving the North Korean nuclear crisis no matter how the crisis is resolved. Kim`s visit was to seek reassurance from Beijing. Building closer ties with China will help North Korea improve its situation in the international arena.
The abovementioned reasons prompted North Korea`s policy change. China supports such changes and they have already born fruit. Leaders of North Korea and South Korea will meet at Panmunjom on April 27. The US and North Korea will also hold a summit in late May or early June.
Pyongyang is seeking rapport with Washington, while hoping to keep its nuclear weapons. Yet Kim`s surprising announcement Saturday - North Korea will suspend its nuclear and missile tests - marked another milestone ahead of his upcoming talks with Trump.
Nevertheless, the US is now divided regarding the North Korean issue. Some Americans are skeptical about North Korea. They think North Korea is adopting a delaying tactic. In making empty promises to the world, Pyongyang could win time to improve its nuclear, missile and military capabilities. These people constitute a majority within the US.
There is another group who believes the US should woo North Korea to its camp to contain China even though North Korea owns nuclear weapons. This group would rather give up on the US principle of nuclear non-proliferation to support their anti-China agenda.
These two groups have more or less the same influence in the US. Which group will dominate will be determined by the next policy move of North Korea and whether the Washington-Pyongyang summit takes place and how it goes. Generally speaking, the situation on the Korean Peninsula is different from the past and the trend is positive.
After the meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Kim as well as the Washington-Pyongyang summit and the North-South dialogue, Russian and Japanese leaders may also meet Kim. China is willing to see such a trajectory.
But uncertainties still exist. The key lies in the Trump-Kim summit. The focal point is how the nuclear crisis will be dealt with. The situation has twisted and turned, back and forth, in history. If the crisis is not handled well, conflict could still occur.
The article is an interview with Jin Canrong, associate dean of the School of International Studies at Renmin University of China.