It is a strange version of Donald Trump who has flown to Japan. It is a long visit, four days, with the intention of reforging Washington-Japan relations, which are all the more crucial now that he has embarked on an all-out confrontation with China.
Tokyo is considered the mainstay of the policy of containment towards Beijing which the US administration has suddenly fuelled.
Yet, despite that reasons for the visit having already intensifiedy already clear international tensions, during his trip to Tokyo Trump gave signs of the opposite, as is by now common in his policy of alternating between exhibitions of strength and declarations of opennessings.
In doing so he has effectively disowned John Bolton, who had arrived in Japan before him, officially in order to prepare for the visit but in actual fact to work on his parallel diplomacy, based on a neo-conservative agenda often which is in contrast with the official agenda of the visit.
The repudiation of Bolton
The US National Security Adviser took advantage of his visit to Japan to try and spoil negotiations between Trump and Kim Jong-un, declaring that the launch of North Korean missiles which had occurred at the beginning of May, “without doubt” violated UN resolutions.
His words greatly angered Pyongyang who denied the violation – stating that it was a military exercise – and defined Bolton a “war monger” and “a defective human product” who should be ousted from the US administration.
As well as Bolton, Kim also criticized White House Democratic candidate Joe Biden, who accused Trump of siding with the North Korean “dictator”. The former US vice president is defined by Pyongyang in his reply as a man of low IQ.
Trump’s reply via twitter was imaginative: “North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me. I have confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promise to me and I also smiled when he called […] Joe Biden a low IQ individual and worse. Perhaps that’s sending me a signal?”
A total disownment of Bolton, however soft, and an interesting reference to “Kim’s signal.” Trump wants an agreement with Kim in order to win the next presidential elections and seems to interpret the counterattack on Biden as the counterpart’s acceptance of such a prospect.
Shinzo Abe expressed himself on the North-Korean incident, praising Trump’s openness to dialogue and declared that he is willing to meet Kim “without preconditions” (New York Times).
The Japanese Prime Minister’s receptiveness was evidently noticed by China who is extremely interested in a reconciliation between the two Koreas, and immediately appointed a new ambassador to Japan, with the choice falling – not by chance – on Kong Xuanyou, the Vice Foreign Minister who was special envoy for North Korea. (Reuters)
The is in opposition to the China – US crisis, and Beijing’s opening has certainly encountered Trump’s silent approval. It represents a good omen also for relations between the two powers.
Unfortunately, the inter-Korean dialogue faces a new and unexpected obstacle. Concurrently with Trump’s visit, a petition was launched to collect signatures in favour of the impeachment of South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in for his openings towards Pyongyang (Reuters).
While the author of the petition has yet to be identified, the number of signatures collected over a short time are enough to demand a formal answer from the government. The incident is both a disruption and a warning to the political figure who more than any other has made efforts to develop dialogue between Kim and Trump and between the two Koreas.
And not just with North Korea: Abe has also offered to mediate between the US and Tehran, considering that the Japanese president has “a very good relationship with Iran,” as recognized by Trump himself who publicly praised the proposal. (Guardian).
All in all, The US president’s trip to Japan has opened up the path to dialogue. However, the visit was forced to end when, in a Japanese school, an attack took place very similar to those which plague America: a madman attacked students with a knife killing two girls. A bad omen.