May 19th 2018

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY The real cost of institutionalised child care

EDITORIAL AGL dismisses $250m bid for Liddell Power Station

GENDER POLITICS As Queensland transgenders birth certificates, 300 women quit UK Labour Party

CANBERRA OBSERVED No pressure on Malcolm to call election this year

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Can Greens regenerate, or are they mulch?

POLITICS Conservative shift in the Victorian Liberal Party

OPINION No fairytale ending from the Land of a Fair Go

LAW REFORM The Nordic Model: proven to curtail sex trafficking

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Committal hearing dismisses main serious charges against Cardinal Pell

GENDER AND ETHICS Transgenderism and the dissolution of identity

PHILOSOPHY The supercharged cheetah

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS One Belt, One Road: China's new empire


MUSIC Business as usual: The sweet tinkle of falling coins

CINEMA Avengers: Last Flag Flying and Infinity War

BOOK REVIEW A hungry beast that ate up 4 million lives

BOOK REVIEW Skewed analysis of republic in crisis



CANBERRA OBSERVED Bill Shorten's Budget-Reply speech: for what ails you

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Behind the U.S.-North Korea rapprochement

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Behind the U.S.-North Korea rapprochement

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, May 19, 2018

For the past 18 months, U.S. President Donald Trump and the reclusive communist dynasty of North Korea have exchanged increasingly rancorous personal and communal abuse.

North Korea has conducted nuclear weapons tests and launched intercontinental ballistic missiles into the Pacific Ocean and threatened to destroy cities on the continental United States and Guam, while in reprisal, President Trump has threatened war and fury on a scale never before seen on earth.

Yet, suddenly, President Trump and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un (pictured), have agreed to meet in Singapore to discuss the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, an objective U.S. administrations have pursued without success for decades.

What has happened?

It will take some time to get to the bottom of the latest developments, but there are several key factors that will help us to make sense of what is happening.

When President Trump was inaugurated in January 2017, he immediately imposed tougher sanctions on North Korea, and called on the two countries that maintain normal relations with North Korea – Russia and China – to seal off the totalitarian regime.

Russia rejected the proposal, and China’s reaction was lukewarm. These two countries have enabled North Korea to maintain its military program, by continuing to provide oil, food, manufactured goods and technology imports.

President Trump upped the ante by imposing tougher sanctions on Russia in protest at Russia’s support for Ukrainian separatists and its support for the Assad regime in Syria. In relation to China, the American President had successive meetings with China’s strongman, Xi Jinping, and subsequently praised the Chinese President’s willingness to cooperate with the United States to resolve the Korean crisis.

China has repeatedly said it does not want to impose heavy sanctions on North Korea because it fears that a collapse of the Stalinist regime could lead to millions of people from North Korea fleeing starvation by taking refuge in China. However, in response to U.S. pressure, it agreed to cut exports of oil to the reclusive North Korean regime.

In the months before the U.S.-North Korea summit was announced, the Chinese President held two meetings with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, at which it seems China told the Stalinist regime that it had to cooperate, or it would face even tougher action.

Trade sanctions

At the same time, in an apparently unrelated decision, the Trump Administration imposed heavy duties on imported steel and aluminium to protect U.S. metal manufacturers, but suspended the application of the sanctions pending discussion with affected countries, including the NAFTA group, Australia, China and the European Union.

The move reflected the Trump Admi­nistration’s concern over the U.S. trade deficit, which in recent years has run at about $US600 billion a year. China is the country with the largest trade surplus with the U.S., contributing over half of the U.S. trade deficit. In a further move to assist U.S. industry, the Trump Administration announced that it would impose duties on $US60 billion worth ($A80 billion) of Chinese imports, citing unfair Chinese trade practices.

China protested, and suggested that it would impose sanctions on large U.S. imports, including beef and soybeans, as well as imported Boeing aircraft.

Interestingly, the U.S. President has repeatedly praised his Chinese counterpart, despite Xi Jinping’s centralisation of power at the recent Communist Party Congress, and his expansion of Chinese military power into the South China Sea, where the Chinese regime has built entire islands and military bases equipped with advanced missile systems on atolls in the South China Sea adjacent to the Philippines and Indonesia.

This has caused deep concern in these countries as well as in the United States, which sees the Chinese bases as a threat to freedom of navigation in the busy trading region, and a threat to American naval power, which has maintained a Pax Americana in Asian waters since World War II.

Trump’s repeated endorsement of Xi Jinping suggests that the United States has reached an understanding with Beijing on the North Korean issue, perhaps on the basis that a resolution of the crisis on the Korean peninsula will be followed by concessions on Chinese imports into the United States.

Significantly, North Korea has dropped its violent rhetoric against both the United States and South Korea over recent months.

The North Korean leader met the President of South Korea, President Moon Jae-in, at the Demilitarised Zone on April 27, in the first meeting of leaders of the two countries in over a decade.

Separately, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un announced that North Korea would destroy its nuclear weapons test facility, inside a remote mountain range in North Korea.

The facility is believed to have suffered severe damage during the recent testing of a 300-kilotonne nuclear device, so it may have had to be shut down regardless.

In any case, China, which is North Korea’s closest ally, is the only country that can bring about change in relations between the dangerous communist regime and the rest of the world.

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