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Beijing Wants US Troops To The Korean Peninsula In Exchange For North Korea Peace: Analysts

Beijing Wants US Troops To The Korean Peninsula In Exchange For North Korea Peace: Analysts
According to analysts, China would be closely watching the scheduled meeting between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore with an ultimate aim of seeing U.S. forces out of the Korean peninsula.
"Beijing will be advocating that the price for peace should be a full withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea” said Hugo Brennan, senior politics analyst for Asia at Verisk Maplecroft, a risk consultancy.
However, China has to first get itself into the game following previous perceptions that China was the cause of the earlier derailment of the Trump and Kim meeting. One of the reasons for that, according to analysts, was that it feared that a reunification of North and South Korea could potentially see US troops closer to its borders.
Brennan said that suggestions that China wants to "spoil the party at any cost" are "wide off the mark," despite that risk.
There is a strategic interest of China in reducing tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
"China's original hope was that if there is a deal, a great bargain, China will want to see the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the [Korean] Peninsula, and the dissolution of the U.S.-South Korea [military] alliance. In that case, the Korean Peninsula will return to China's traditional sphere of influence," said Yun Sun, co-director of the East Aria program and director of the China program at the Washington-based Stimson Center think tank.
Any deliberation of the presence of US military in South Korea would be "separate and distinct" from the meetings with North Korea, said US defense secretary James Mattis earlier at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.
"That issue will not come up in the discussions with [North Korea] and as you all recognize; those troops are there as a recognition of a security challenge," Mattis said.
There is also a big risk for China from the Trump-Kim meeting.
"Beijing is wary of being side-lined and wants to safeguard its security and geopolitical interests, which explains Kim' second visit to China earlier this month," said Brennan.
For China, it would be a nightmare to see a unified Korea that is aligned with the US and with a consequent presence of US troops close to China’s border.
So "it doesn't want to see a quick partnership between the U.S. and North Korea" which will undermine China's influence, Sun added.
In its negotiations with Trump, the close relationship between itself and North Korea would be leveraged by China. The aim of Beijing would be to force the Trump administration to go soft on its trade protectionist policies against China.
"The North Korea issue has given China leverage over the Trump administration and stayed Washington's hand on trade and the South China Sea” said Brennan.
"Beijing will use its influence with Kim to prevent any outcome that threatens this geopolitical advantage," he added.
While Trump had been criticizing the huge trade deficit that US has with China for long, but has in recent days somewhat curtailed the threats of tariffs because he would want China to aid in putting checks on the nuclear ambitions of North Korea.
"Well, for China, since the improvement of relations on the [Korean] Peninsula this year, the trade deal China got is so much worse” said Sun, referring to recent plans by Washington to impose heavy tariffs on Chinese imports.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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