The article originally appeared on India Today.

US President Donald Trump is scheduled to host South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the White House on June 29 and 30. It is the first bilateral summit between two close allies after both countries got new presidents. Trump took oath in January while Moon was elected only last month after mid-term polls necessitated by the impeachment of former South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

The meeting is expected to be eclipsed by three issues, North Korea, China and the deployment of US missile defense system in South Korea.

If the Trump administration had termed the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to America in April historic, the expectation that China will exert its influence to rein in North Korea was one of the major factors apart from some trade deals signed that Trump said would help American businesses and would create jobs. China is the only big market for North Korea and it accounts for over two-thirds of total North Korean trade.

But that expectation has become frustration in just two months. Donald Trump has realized that China will not help in reining in North Korea which reflected in his tweet last week, “While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi and China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!” But what belies this line that “he knows that China at least tried” is the fact* that out of growing frustration over the Chinese inaction on North Korea and bilateral ties, Trump is thinking to take punitive action by imposing tariff on imports like Chinese steel.

North Korea has already conducted almost a dozen missile tests this year and is preparing to conduct another nuclear test aimed at producing nuclear weapons. The threat from the rogue state has reached to new heights under the present dictator Kim Jong-un so much so that the US had to deploy its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile defense system, inviting strong Chinese protests which sees the presence of the system on the Korean peninsula, in its backyard, breach of its sovereignty and a security threat. China has been lashing out at the US and South Korea for it.

And the optics of its deployment has also been a thorny issue for Trump as well as for Moon. While Trump has demanded South Korea pay $1 billion for THAAD deployment, Moon has termed the system which went live last month a total failure of democracy.

While campaigning, Moon who is seen as a liberal having soft approach towards China, South Korea’s largest trading partner, and having a conciliatory tone towards North Korea, had promised to review the THAAD agreement by his predecessor. Moon, in fact, ordered a probe last month after it emerged that four more missile launchers were added to the THAAD system in South Korea. South Korea maintains that the US asked only for land and support infrastructure for THAAD deployment and all other cost was to be borne by the US only.



The article originally appeared on India Today.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is in China, met the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Saturday after which both held a joint press conference. There are reports in the US and Chinese media that US President Donald Trump is scheduled to host Chinese President Xi Jinping for a two-day summit on April 6-7 at his mansion Mar-a-Lago in Florida which Trump is using as his winter retreat. Tillerson’s China visit is being seen as intended to lay groundwork for the upcoming summit.

According to Global Times, the sister publication of People’s Daily, Chinese Communist Party’s official newspaper, Tillerson’s visit to China has ‘served to reduce anxiety over US-China’ ties. Global Times writes quoting Wang Yi that “the phone call between the two countries’ leaders has served as guidance for both sides” to work out further details.

After Donald Trump assumed the US presidency, the US-China ties have been under cloud with Trump indicating that he may take a different approach to the issues that China finds vital to its interests.

Though Trump put his faith in the One China policy during his first phone call with Jinping last month, his acts in the past have indicated otherwise. Breaking the three decade old US protocol of not speaking to Taiwan, Trump spoke to Taiwan president in November after his victory. Further, Trump said that the ‘One China’ policy was not sacrosanct and was open to new realignments, like with new trade deals. China ferociously follows the ‘One China’ policy and believes Taiwan is a rouge province that will sooner or later come to its fold.


The issue is expected to figure prominently in Trump-Jinping talks. And if we go by a report published in The Independent today that says the Trump Administration is preparing to sell Taiwan arms it needs in case of a Chinese attack, there are bound to be hard negotiations as Sean Spicer, the White House Press Secretary, said after the Trump-Jinping call last month that ‘Trump always gets something in return in negotiations’. The new arms sales package to Taiwan, at a time when both countries are preparing for a summit between their leaders, tells that Trump is not satisfied with what assurance he got from Jinping during his phone call and he intends for more.

Though there were no discussions on Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) issue, it is another issue that Tillerson and Wang Yi would be hoping to work on set the contours of the talks when Jinping-Trump meet next month. China has come down heavily on South Korea for deploying the US missile defense system against North Korea after North Korea tested ballistic missiles this month. China is opposed to THAAD’s deployment in the region saying it disturbs power balance and is inimical to its interest in the South China Sea, another disputed region where China is pitted against the US and other world powers after a UN panel rejected Chinese claims on the South China Sea.

Tillerson’s China visit, it seems, is aimed at finding common grounds for bottleneck issues to prepare conducive atmosphere for Trump-Jinping summit, something that China also realises. Global Times, quoting Wang Yi, writes, “It is normal for China and the US to have their differences, and that open communication is essential.”