President Trump appeared before the South Korean National Assembly and revealed a complete lack of understanding of the dynamics between China and North Korea. “Why would China feel an obligation to help North Korea?” Trump asked rhetorically.
The answer is that China’s No. 1 priority is to preserve stability on the Korean Peninsula and to prevent a cataclysm that sends million of North Koreans fleeing into Northeast China. At the same time, the Chinese want to prevent the South Koreans and their American allies from consolidating control of the peninsula. They were willing to go to war to prevent that in the early 1950s.
If Trump can’t see the situation through Chinese eyes, he has no chance of persuading them to do anything that would truly change the dynamics of their relationship with Kim Jong Un. The Chinese clearly don’t like Kim, but he serves the purpose of maintaining the division of the peninsula, which is in China’s interests at the moment.
This ultimately is the price we pay for electing a president who either cannot or will not come to grips with complex realities.