Region hostage to ‘twisted fantasies’
DA NANG: Donald Trump said yesterday the Asia-Pacific region was being held hostage by the “twisted fantasies” of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, as he called on countries to stand united against Pyongyang.
The US President has embarked on a tour of Asia this week trying to rally regional support for curbing North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, warning that time is running out over the crisis.
“The future of this region and its beautiful people must not be held hostage to a dictator’s twisted fantasies of violent conquest and nuclear blackmail,” he said during a speech to the CEO’s Summit on the sidelines of the annual AsiaPacific Economic Co-operation summit that opened yesterday in Da Nang, Vietnam.
The region, he added, must “stand united in declaring that every single step the North Korean regime takes toward more weapons is a step it takes into greater and greater danger”.
Mr Trump also gave a spirited airing of “America First”, saying Washington would “no longer tolerate” unfair trade, closed markets and intellectual property theft, as he seeks to rewrite the rules of global commerce. He also railed against free-trade deals between multiple countries, saying instead Washington would prioritise bilateral pacts.
Following Mr Trump to the podium, Chinese President Xi Jinping laid out his country’s credentials as the new champion of world trade, calling globalisation an “irreversible historical trend”, in comments that offered a contrast to the “America First” doctrine espoused by his American counterpart moments earlier.
Mr Xi conceded the philosophy behind free trade needed to be repurposed to be “more open, more balanced, more equitable and more beneficial to all” but defended multinational trade deals, which he said helped poorer nations benefit from global commerce. “We should support the multilateral trading regime and practice open regionalism to allow developing members to benefit more from international trade and investment,” he said in a speech punctuated by bouts of applause.
Mr Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive trade deal that excluded China, has been a boon to Beijing. Mr Xi has stepped into the void, portraying himself as the world’s global free-trade leader and pushing his own version of TPP instead.
The US administration thinks China’s economic leverage over North Korea is the key to strongarming Pyongyang into halting its nuclear weapons and missile programs.
On Thursday, Mr Trump was in Beijing meeting Mr Xi, where he called on China to “act fast” over North Korea. Washington has also worked in recent months to convince allies across Asia to oppose Pyongyang, an issue that will remain prominent during his twoday trip to Vietnam.
The leaders of Japan, Russia, China and South Korea are also attending the APEC summit.
At the same time, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Washington had “two or three channels” open with North Korea and was always ready to hear what Pyongyang wanted to say.
Mr Tillerson has consistently emphasised diplomacy in dealing
‘More open, more balanced, more equitable and more beneficial to all’ XI JINPING CHINESE PRESIDENT
with the North, while Mr Trump has traded personal insults and threats of war with leader Kim Jong-un.
At a speech in South Korea’s parliament on Wednesday, Mr Trump denounced the North’s “cruel dictatorship”, but appeared to moderate his bellicose tone somewhat when he offered Pyongyang a “path to a better future”. Mr Tillerson reinforced that thrust on the sidelines of the APEC summit. “We have two or three channels in which we can with high confidence get messages to him and he can get messages back to us and we keep those open,” he said of Kim.
But North Korean media reiterated yesterday Pyongyang would not put its nuclear weapons up for negotiation, calling such suggestions a “foolish daydream” and Mr Trump a “war maniac”.
“We do not oppose dialogue but will never put the issue related to the supreme interests of the DPRK and security of its people on the bargaining table,” said a commentary in the government newspaper Minju Joson.
“We are not interested in such dialogue and negotiations in the least.”