Summit pleases China, while Japan puts on brave face

BEIJING/TOKYO: With US President Donald Trump setting the course for normalising ties with North Korea and even saying war games with South Korea would end, China appeared a winner from Tuesday’s summit, as Japan tried putting a brave face on the outcome.
At a post-summit press conference, Trump said Washington would end “very provocative” and costly military exercises with South Korea, a move that would rattle Seoul and Tokyo, which rely on the US military for their own security.
China, North Korea’s most important economic and diplomatic supporter despite its anger at Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile tests, wasted little time with a reminder that UN sanctions could be adjusted if North Korea behaved itself.
“The UN Security Council resolutions that have been passed say that if North Korea respects and acts in accordance with the resolutions, then sanction measures can be adjusted, including to pause or remove the relevant sanctions,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, said at a daily news briefing.
The Global Times, an influential Chinese state-run newspaper, said in an editorial that the time was right to consider “an appropriate reduction of the sanctions”.
Brad Glosserman, visiting professor at Japan’s Tama University, said China would be pleased with the outcome.
He said that North Korea would be as well.
“Kim — wants a photo op, gets it, got an invitation to the White House,” he said. “He has an open door to the weakening of sanctions, no one is going to be putting on the squeeze. Everything North Korea wanted — I see no downside.”
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe put a positive spin on the summit, welcoming the fact that Trump told a news conference he had raised the issue of Japanese abductees, though there was no mention of that in the document signed by Kim and Trump.
Yoji Koda, a retired admiral who commanded the Japanese naval fleet, and is a fellow at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University, said the statement contained nothing new or concrete.
“One of the key points that Trump and his advisers made was that the US will not repeat the mistakes of previous deals,” he said. “From reading this document I don’t think the US will be successful.”
South Korea’s presidential office said it needs to seek clarity on Trump’s intentions after he said Washington will stop joint military exercises.
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in, who has been front and centre in efforts to engage the North and Kim himself, pledged complete cooperation.
“My administration will spare no effort in cooperating with the United States, North Korea and the international community to ensure that the agreement can be implemented in its entirety,” Moon said in a statement.
But Koda, the retired Japanese admiral, said ending the exercises would be a “clear mistake” and was “too early”.
“Alliances are a key element of US global strategy and exercises are a right of the US to use to protect allied nations,” he said. “The US should continue joint exercises, they are a signal to China too.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the summit as “an important milestone” towards the denuclearization of the korean peninsula. Guterres urged all those concerned to “seize this momentous opportunity” and again offered UN help to achieve the goal of dismantling North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme. — Reuters