When Pyongyang demurred initially, Beijing displayed its resolve and cut off oil supplies to North Korea for a week, compelling Pyongyang’s participation at the conference.
Thus, under China’s aegis, the first so-called “six-party talks,” attended by North Korea, South Korea, the US, Japan, Russia and China, took place in Beijing in August 2003.
After dozens of private bilateral (the US and North Korea) and trilateral (the US, North Korea and China) meetings, and five rounds of plenary negotiations, the parties came to a general agreement and issued a joint statement in September 2005.
North Korea agreed to a staged elimination of “all nuclear weapons and its existing nuclear program.” In return, the US, South Korea and Japan agreed to work toward normalized relations with Pyongyang, and provided security assurances and economic assistance.
China and North Korea were big winners as they avoided a possible US military attack, and China was lauded as a peacemaker in the international community.
However, with the benefit of hindsight, the six-party talks were a deception and a delaying tactic used by Pyongyang, perhaps complicit with Beijing, to secure additional time for research and development of its nuclear and missile programs.
Thus, when North Korean scientists were ready, Pyongyang found an excuse to tear up the agreement and launch a Taepodong-2 intercontinental ballistic missile in July 2006, before detonating a nuclear device three months later.
Some US officials might have subsequently realized that they had been hoodwinked, but were too embarrassed to say so. At least they learned that endless talks with Pyongyang go nowhere, except toward a nuclear-armed North Korea.
Would Xi be able to help solve North Korea problem in exchange for a better trade deal as Trump has proposed?
A smart businessman and dealmaker like Trump cares about profits, but communists like Xi, Jiang or Mao Zedong (毛澤東) see national security as the foremost national priority, while business interests are expendable.
Former US president Dwight Eisenhower’s Mandate for Change 1953-56 could be instructive for Trump in dealing with Xi.
When Eisenhower came to office in January 1953, he dropped hints at the Korean Armistice Agreement in Panmunjom that in the event China refused to accede to an armistice in a reasonable time, the US was prepared to escalate the war, including possible use of nuclear weapons against military targets in China, or assisting a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) invasion of China.
Mao took Eisenhower’s threats seriously and ordered preparations for an invasion by seven US divisions, and yielded to Eisenhower’s demand and signed the Korean ceasefire agreement in July 1953.
For now, Beijing is calling for peace talks and trying to assume the role of moderator in the regional conflict, but how much is China willing to do to rein in North Korea at Trump’s behest?
Whereas China has stopped imports of North Korea’s coal — a very important commodity — it is yet to cut off its most strategic supply to North Korea — gasoline.
When US troops in South Korea are rearmed with tactical nuclear weapons to counter and destroy thousands of North Korean artillery guns and missiles deployed north of the Korean Demilitarized Zone, and when Beijing perceives a US military attack is imminent, it will show its hand and force North Korea to comply.