2. North Korea tensions keep rising as U.S. and China continue talks
On Wednesday we had the scoop that Beijing dispatched Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Zheng Zeguang 郑泽光 to D.C. on a "firefighting" mission to deal with escalating tensions over North Korea and trade. The trip was so hurriedly scheduled that Ambassador Cui Tiankai reportedly left the U.S.-China Business Council's annual dinner Wednesday early to meet with Zheng.
What's happening now: There is temporary quiet from the White House about new sanctions against China or North Korea, despite President Trump's Twitter promise nine days ago:
Just spoke to President XI JINPING of China concerning the provocative actions of North Korea. Additional major sanctions will be imposed on North Korea today. This situation will be handled!
Ambassador John Bolton, one of the leading proponents of regime change in North Korea, met with Trump on Thursday – that will have gotten Beijing's attention.
Beijing's Diplomacy: China continues to push its "freeze for freeze" proposal, in which North Korea would suspend nuclear and missile development while South Korea and the U.S. would suspend military exercises. The Trump administration rejects this approach.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in will visit China for four days starting December 13. On Thursday, a South Korea ruling party lawmaker said that Xi and Moon "share an understanding that [freeze for freeze] is perhaps the most realistic way," Yonyap reported.
China's goal: Xi has been working hard to repair relations with Seoul and create distance between Moon, a relative dove on North Korea, and Trump, thus reducing America's multilateral options and bringing the U.S. and North Korea to the negotiating table. China says it will not accept a nuclearized North Korea but no one, including officials in Beijing, actually believe that North Korea would give up its nuclear weapons now.