EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The North Korean imbroglio has been affecting Sino-American relations for months. Washington and Beijing agree on the urgency of mitigating risks stemming from the unpredictable behavior of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, but differ on methods to achieve that objective. President Trump has abandoned the “strategic patience” ethos of the Obama era and criticizes Beijing for not putting greater pressure on Pyongyang. For its part, Beijing is concerned about instability on the Korean Peninsula as the US military presence expands and the “regime change” prescription gains ground.
The US, an established political and economic superpower, and China, an economic colossus and rising political power, are attempting to find a modus vivendi that will define international relations. Optimistic scholars believe their differences will be solved peacefully in the interest of global stability, but pessimistic analysts express the view that their rivalry and contradicting interests will ultimately involve armed forces.
At the time of this writing, the new US administration and the Chinese leadership have been engaged in preliminary discussions on a variety of topics (diplomacy and security, economics, law enforcement and cybersecurity, and social and cultural issues) following the agreement reached between Presidents Trump and Xi at Mar-a-Lago in April 2017.
It is the North Korean imbroglio, however, that is dominating the agenda of Sino-American negotiations.
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