Thu, Jun 14, 2018 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Tsai paying for Ma’s tainted legacy

The summit on Tuesday between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore left many questions unanswered.

Many Western observers believe that Kim essentially out-negotiated Trump, securing significant concessions, including the suspension of annual US-South Korea military drills.

Kim also managed to have himself presented as a peer of the US president.

This has been interpreted as a strategic misstep on Trump’s part, as it signals to other adversarial states that bad behavior — such as threatening the US with nuclear missiles — would be rewarded.

Trump also advocated for Kim, describing the joint drills as “provocative” and praising the North Korean leader for his intelligence and commitment to the well-being of his people.

North Korean state media loved it. Beijing countenances its troublesome neighbor because North Korea acts as a buffer between China and South Korea, where US troops are stationed.

Beijing would surely welcome the reduction of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, and it would also be pleased about the cessation of US-South Korean drills.

Beijing would also have been reassured by the apparent ease with which Trump was out-maneuvered, and how willing he was to put aside the North’s abysmal human rights record, and to say words that advanced its rhetoric in an international forum.

That said, the Chinese Communist Party values stability, predictability, consistency and reliability. Its modus operandi is to establish an agreed narrative and to plan decades in advance based on that narrative. Its insistence on the so-called “1992 consensus” as a basis for cross-strait negotiations is a perfect example of this.

Modern, high-level, high-stakes diplomacy relies on similar attributes. It requires maintaining many different relationships simultaneously, like spinning plates.

Trump does not do diplomatic spinning plates; he does bull-in-China-shop shattering plates. He does not balk at reneging on promises, pulling out of agreements or upturning decades of diplomatic undertakings if he thinks a more direct approach would achieve a desired goal.

It is safe to say that Trump reveled in the optics of orchestrating peace, even if it is to mitigate tensions that were, to a large part, of his own making.

There have been calls for the momentum toward peace on the Korean Peninsula to be carried over to efforts to bring peace between Taiwan and China. The US, after all, has a horse in that race, and if Trump were involved in those negotiations, he would surely be a contender for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The difference is that the two Koreas would both benefit from being two nations of equal status enjoying peaceful, normalized relations. This model simply does not fit China’s narrative regarding Taiwan.

According to Chinese state-run tabloid the Global Times, a Taiwanese reporter yesterday asked China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesperson Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光) whether the Taiwan Strait might be the next potential flashpoint in Asia where the US might get involved.

Ma said US interference would be inappropriate, citing another “historic summit” in Singapore, the Nov. 7, 2015, meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) and then-president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九). During that summit, according to China’s version of events, both sides had agreed to uphold the “1992 consensus.”

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