A screen showing images of South Korea's president Moon Jae-in, US president Donald Trump, China's president Xi Jinping, and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un KIM SUE-HAN/AFP/Getty Images

Trump Cancels, China Wins

By pulling out of the planned nuclear summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Donald Trump has somehow managed to make the United States look worse than any other strategic actor in East Asia. China, in particular, now finds itself in an even stronger position.

LONDON – US President Donald Trump’s abrupt decision to cancel his planned June 12 summit with Kim Jong-un represents a diplomatic coup for the North Korean leader, and an even bigger victory for China. In the space of just a few months, Kim’s image has gone from that of international pariah to that of thwarted peacemaker.

Kim could hardly have dreamed of a greater success. In the face of threatened US airstrikes and tight economic sanctions – even from its neighbor and supposed ally China – North Korea has achieved the status of a nuclear-weapons state. And now it can even claim a kind of moral high ground. Kim, after all, was the first to raise the idea of a historic bilateral summit with the United States, and he has now had his overture rejected – after first being accepted – by Trump.

To be sure, no one in East Asia harbors any illusions that Kim has changed. He is still a brutal dictator and a potential menace to regional peace. But so far all of North Korea’s neighbors – Japan, South Korea, China, and Russia – have found his diplomatic strategy to be more predictable, and even more credible, than that of the US.

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