China appears to have crossed Trump on North Korea

  • Donald Trump said Wednesday that China backed him on North Korea.
  • But the next day China contradicted him entirely.
  • Even South Korea has expressed doubts about Trump's goal in dealing with North Korea.


After a 12-day trip to Asia where President Donald Trump stressed his friendship and mutual understanding with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Beijing appears to have crossed Trump on a key issue — North Korea.

At every turn during his trip, Trump insisted that the US's goal was North Korea's denuclearization. He stressed the "grave threat" the rogue nuclear nation posed to millions in the region around the world.

But now, China seems to have rejected the idea of denuclearization, and instead wants the US to settle for a freeze in North Korea's nuclear program in exchange for a freeze in the US's military drills with South Korea.

On Wednesday, Trump said that he and Xi "agreed that we would not accept a so-called freeze-for-freeze agreement like those that have consistently failed in the past.”

On Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that a dual suspension, the Chinese's preferred term for the "freeze-for-freeze" deal, the "most feasible, fair and sensible plan in the present situation."

The difference of opinion has gone on for years, with China repeatedly suggesting the dual freeze and the US routinely rejecting it.

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Donald Trump arrives in Japan
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump board Air Force One to depart for Japan from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, U.S. November 4, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive on Air Force One at U.S. Air Force Yokota base in Fussa, on the outskirts of Tokyo, Japan, November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive on Air Force One at U.S. Air Force Yokota base in Fussa, on the outskirts of Tokyo, Japan, November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive on Air Force One at U.S. Air Force Yokota base in Fussa, on the outskirts of Tokyo, Japan, November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump arrive at U.S. Air Force Yokota base in Fussa, on the outskirts of Tokyo, Japan, November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump addresses members of U.S. military services and Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF) at U.S. Air Force Yokota Air Base in Fussa, on the outskirts of Tokyo, Japan, November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai
U.S. President Donald Trump addresses members of U.S. military services and Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF) at U.S. Air Force Yokota Air Base in Fussa, on the outskirts of Tokyo, Japan, November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai
Supporters hold signs as they wait for U.S. President Donald Trump outside Kasumigaseki Country Club in Kawagoe, north of Tokyo, Japan November 5, 2017. Trump is due to play golf at the club with Japan?s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. REUTERS/Issei Kato
U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with Japan?s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Kasumigaseki Country Club in Kawagoe, north of Tokyo, Japan November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hold hats they signed, reading "Donald & Shinzo Make Alliance Even Greater" before lunch and a round of golf at Kasumigaseki Country Club in Kawagoe, Japan November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
US President Donald Trump (L) is welcomed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe upon his arrival at the Kasumigaseki Country Club in Kawagoe, near Tokyo, Japan, 05 November 2017. REUTERS/Frank Robichon/Pool
U.S. President Donald Trump departs after a round of golf with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Kasumigaseki Country Club in Kawagoe, Japan November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump gestures to Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as Japanese professional golfer Hideki Matsuyama looks on, as they play golf at the Kasumigaseki Country Club in Kawagoe, north of Tokyo, Japan, in this photo taken and released by Japan's Cabinet Public Relations Office via Kyodo November 5, 2017. Mandatory credit Japan's Cabinet Public Relations Office via Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN.
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Back in March, when China made the same suggestion, Mark Toner, then-acting spokesman for the State Department, explained the US's objection.

Toner said comparing the US's transparent, planned, defensive, and 40-year-old military drills with North Korea's illegal pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles is a case of "apples to oranges."

The return to the old stalemate between China and the US undercuts the progress that Trump hailed after returning from his Asia trip.

But even beyond the stalemate, South Korea, the US's staunch ally, also expressed doubts about the practicality of denuclearization.

“If talks begin to resolve the North Korea nuclear issue, I feel it will be realistically difficult for North Korea to completely destroy its nuclear capabilities when their nuclear and missile arsenal are at a developed stage,” South Korean President Moon Jae-in said in a briefing.

“If so, North Korea’s nuclear program should be suspended, and negotiations could go on to pursue complete denuclearization,” Moon said.

Both China and South Korea appear more willing to meet North Korea in the middle, as Pyongyang swears it will never “never put the issue related to the supreme interests of the DPRK [nuclear weapons] and security of its people on the bargaining table.”

NOW WATCH: Watch The US and South Korea show off their air force jets in a defense exhibition amid tensions with North Korea

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