China, Russia supportive of Trump’s North Korea meeting
President Donald Trump’s announced plan to meet with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, has received a warm reception from China and Russia, the two major nations with the closest ties to the otherwise isolated communist state.
A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Geng Shuang, said on Friday that his nation was hopeful that all parties to the talks would “show their political courage,” according to The Associated Press, and that China supported “positive inter-Korean and U.S.-North Korea interactions.” China has long served as North Korea’s chief trade partner and benefactor on the world stage, until recently shielding it from the most aggressive actions sought by the U.S. and others at the United Nations.
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Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, traveling in Ethiopia, told The AP that the Kremlin considered the Trump-Kim meeting “a step in the right direction.” An agreement between the U.S. and North Korea, he said, is “necessary for normalizing the situation around the Korean peninsula.”
The White House’s confirmation on Thursday night that Trump would meet with Kim in the coming months came as somewhat of a surprise to even members of his own administration, breaking with precedent that kept U.S. presidents from meeting leaders of the repressive nation.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters on Friday in Africa that he and other officials were caught off guard by Kim’s willingness to meet.
“What changed was his posture in a fairly dramatic way that in all honesty was — came as a little bit of a surprise to us, as well, that he was so forward leaning,” Tillerson said while speaking during a visit to Djibouti.
The remarks from the nation’s top diplomat came just a day after he expressed skepticism over the likelihood of a summit between the U.S. and North Korea, telling reporters in Ethiopia that negotiations between the two nations were “a long ways away.”
As North Korea ramped up its campaign of missile tests and nuclear saber-rattling, Trump has sought to ramp up pressure on the country’s leadership with the help of China, which wields a disproportionate amount of influence with North Korea as its principle trading partner. China has agreed to tougher sanctions on North Korea in recent months, and Geng said Friday that the Chinese government would “continue to strive for the political resolution and lasting peace and stability on the peninsula.”
Susan Rice, who served as national security adviser and U.S. ambassador to the U.N. under President Barack Obama, expressed skepticism that Trump could successfully pull off the high-wire act of meeting with Kim, which she said would require significant preparation and input from experts who she said had fled government service. Rice warned that, handled poorly, a face-to-face meeting between Trump and Kim could increase the risk of armed conflict between the U.S. and North Korea.
“We also have the challenge of the fact that we have a president who hasn’t conducted a successful negotiation domestically or internationally, who doesn’t seem to like to prepare or be detail-oriented and who has a quite hollowed-out stable of experts now, both at the State Department and elsewhere in the administration,” she told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “And so there’s a real risk, I’m afraid, that if we dash into this without proper preparation, the president himself tries to conduct a substantive negotiation without the benefit of experts, that we could well fail, and in the context of failure, I think the risk of conflict increases.”
Rice suggested that for Trump to be successful, he should lean on North Korea experts regardless of the administration they served and potentially seek to press them back into government service as part of an advisory team. The meeting itself, she said, should be informal and without the pomp that typically accompanies a summit-level meeting of world leaders. Should the initial meeting go well, a “more formal handshake summit” could follow.
“I think it’s very risky,” she said. “It risks the president’s credibility, the credibility of the United States and worse still, I think it increases the risk of conflict. If they go into something with very high expectations, poor preparation and the president acting in his typically mercurial way, we could end up in a much worse place than we are today.