President Trump and President Xi Jinping had a productive phone call Tuesday night about the growing threat of North Korea. Xi reportedly told Trump that Beijing is ready to work towards a peaceful, diplomatic solution to Kim Jong Un’s nuclear weapons program.
“Had a very good call last night with the President of China concerning the menace of North Korea,” Trump tweeted Wednesday.
In a Chinese state media report, Xi was quoted as saying, “China insists on realizing the denuclearization of the peninsula and is willing to maintain communication and coordination with the American side over the issue on the peninsula.”
Xi is keeping a wary eye on the movement of U.S. Navy warships in the area, to say nothing of the drills the U.S. is conducting with the South Korean military – drills that also have Kim Jong Un on edge.
Publicly, Trump has been steadily applying pressure on China. In tweets a day earlier, the president suggested that there might be something in it for China if they were to help the U.S. stabilize the Korean peninsula.
“I explained to the President of China that a trade deal with the U.S. will be far better for them if they solve the North Korean problem,” he said.
But in a second tweet, Trump said that the U.S. didn’t necessarily need China’s assistance. “North Korea is looking for trouble,” he wrote. “If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them!”
NBC News reported last week that President Trump requested and received a range of options from his National Security Council, outlining measures the U.S. could take to neutralize the North Korean nuclear threat:
The first and most controversial course of action under consideration is placing U.S. nuclear weapons in South Korea. The U.S. withdrew all nuclear weapons from South Korea 25 years ago. Bringing back bombs — likely to Osan Air Base, less than 50 miles south of the capital of Seoul — would mark the first overseas nuclear deployment since the end of the Cold War, an unquestionably provocative move.
No one is particularly crazy about that idea; the other two major options include taking Kim Jong Un out through assassination/invasion and using special forces and cyberattacks to weaken North Korean nuclear infrastructure. So far, the third option appears to be the most popular within the Trump administration.
But the ideal scenario would be for China to leverage their economic power over the Kim regime and force North Korea to abandon their nuclear program “voluntarily.” If Trump can make that happen in talks with President Xi, he’ll have cemented his legacy as one of the most effective U.S. presidents in decades.