Re­gion hostage to ‘twisted fan­tasies’

The Weekend Australian - - WORLD - AFP

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.”

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