Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Beijing on board

US President Donald J. Trump asks, via Twitter (because where else?), where his groundbreaking summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un should take place, should it take place at all:

There are loads of places that would fit the criteria of neutrali-ish ground, accessible to someone who only wishes to travel by train (i.e., Kim Jong-un), and worthy of such a historic moment. Mongolia would be about as neutral as you can get and still be in the region. Vladivostok, which is not terribly far from the Russia-DPRK border, could be an interesting choice that would let Russia know they are not being left out.

Meanwhile, Japan is out, since that is probably just too far a boat ride from North Korea’s east coast. South Korea could play host, but they are too much of an American ally in the overall picture to be a neutral player, despite South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s adept diplomatic efforts to bring all sides together.

My vote is Beijing. Not just China, but the capital and symbol of PRC power. Sure, China is no neutral party, being in North Korea’s corner for decades, but one simple fact makes this the optimal choice: Barring some absolutely seismic shift where North Korea throws its hands up in the air and basically drops all its offensive positions, China must be an active and willing participant in whatever agreement results from all these meetings.

We name monumental agreements from historic sit-downs after the cities where they took place: the Yalta conference, the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement. Imagine, if you will, the Beijing Accord. Imagine denuclearization of North Korea and an opening up of DPRK’s economy to the United States, Japan, and South Korea, if not the rest of the world. There is no way Beijing would allow the Beijing Accord to be scuttled or fail. The Vladivostok Agreement, maybe. The Ulan Bator Treaty, perhaps. But never the Beijing Accord.

And as long as the yellow dust has passed, Beijing would be a lovely place to visit in late spring.

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