2. No apparent North Korea breakthroughs
North Korea was at the top of the Trump-Xi agenda but there are few signs of progress, and already signs of miscommunication between the two. The two sides gave different statements after the visit.
- Trump said: "President Xi recognizes that a nuclear North Korea is a grave threat to China, and we agreed that we would not accept a so-called 'freeze-for-freeze' agreement like those that have consistently failed in the past."
- China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang said at a weekly news conference Thursday: "Suspension-for-suspension is the most realistic, viable and reasonable solution in the current situation," per AP.
Quick take: Xi is sending special envoy Song Tao to Pyongyang. His visit does not appear to be a result of American pressure (Song's predecessors went after previous congresses). But the language announcing his visit suggests there is more on his agenda than just the 19th Party Congress briefing.
We are left to speculate about what Xi may be working on:
- Will Song meet North Korea leader Kim Jong-un to deliver a warning?
- Does Xi, on the heels of his rapprochement with South Korea and the announcement of a December visit to Beijing by the South Korean president, have a plan underway for a broader deal to ease tensions?
The big picture: Crafting a "Chinese" solution, even a temporary one, to the North Korea crisis would be a huge diplomatic win for Xi and China, would fit with the global aspirations articulated at the 19th Party Congress as well as the "major power diplomacy" efforts, and would damage U.S. prestige and influence.
Trump seems to think he and Xi see eye to eye on North Korea, but that seems a bit of a stretch given the U.S. and China's disparate strategic calculations about the DPRK.