The Atlantic

What Kim Jong Un's China Trip Means for Trump

And how the U.S. president can try to avoid getting played
Source: KCNA / Reuters

For a couple of weeks in March, after the announcement that Donald Trump had accepted an offer to meet with Kim Jong Un, the outcome of the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear weapons seemed to depend on whether two leaders who had steered their nations toward war could pump the brakes and broker peace. Then, this week, Kim boarded a train to Beijing and scrambled the whole map.

The North Korean leader’s friendly meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping—his first encounter with another head of state—doesn’t necessarily place Trump in a weaker position heading into nuclear talks with Kim later this spring, said Yun Sun, the director of the China Program at the Stimson Center. But it does make Trump’s position far more complicated. China, which is North Korea’s neighbor, treaty ally, and nearly exclusive trading partner, has reasserted itself as a “central player” in the negotiations.

Just as important, Kim played the United States and China off each other, much likeabout being excluded from the summitry ( applies as much to international affairs as to human affairs), which will now enable North Korea to take advantage of the “differences, the strategic competition and mistrust between the United States and China,” Yun told me.

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