America cannot, alone, eliminate North Korea’s
nuclear threat. We must engage China, which has a vital interest in regional peace and stability, and no small amount of leverage. To do that, we need to know what China is thinking and doing.
It was, thus, no surprise when the Agency, recalling my many insightful reports on North Korea and China, phoned, asking me to find out what I could on the recent meeting between Kim Jong Un and Xi Jinping. With the usual Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell caveat, here is a bit of what I gleaned:
Ah, Leader Kim, welcome to Beijing. I hope your flight was not delayed by the particulate matter in the air caused by our extraordinary industrial and overall economic growth.
Flight? I came by train, though we had to go very slowly because of your so-called particulate matter.
Ah, train, how quaint, but at least that gave you a chance to see our beautiful countryside.
I think you miss my point.
Yes, yes, I see that you didn’t see … ha ha … Anyway, it must be refreshing to live in so bucolic and pollution-free a country as yours.
Are you saying that we are industrially challenged?
No, no, not at all, simply that what might have been your industrial talents and energies are instead focused on an area that is difficult to translate directly into the daily well-being of your people.
Well, at least our people can breathe free.
In a manner of speaking … So, have you noted how the world press have been distracted from your nuclear program and are focusing on your main source of sustenance?
Sorry, I don’t follow.
Every headline is Kim-Xi, Kim-Xi, Kim-Xi. Get it? Kimchi! Your main dish!
Oh … ha … but are you saying that we are culinarily challenged?
No, no, just a bit of levity. And, of course, a steady diet of pickled cabbage has — in your case, for example — more than sufficed.
Are you saying I’m dietetically challenged?
Not at all. It’s obvious that pickled cabbage has done you a world of good, in contrast to much of your population … which brings up a salient point. Under the right circumstances, we might increase our food exports to you — Moo Goo Gai Pan, Peking Duck, Shrimp with Lobster Sauce, for example.
But aren’t your food supplies tight? Why would … oh, wait a minute, I get it! You’re planning to slap tariffs on American soy beans in retaliation for their tariffs on your steel. So, your soy sauce output will plummet and since, as we all know, Chinese food is useless without soy sauce, you foresee a food surplus that you can dump on us, get us hooked, and then use a possible cutoff as leverage to make us abandon our nuclear program.
I wouldn’t have put it quite that way. Rather, we were hoping that we would find a softer path to reducing the threat of nuclear disaster than sealing your land border, blockading your ports, and adhering to all international economic sanctions.
Hmmm … but, unless you abandon what we know is your plan to slap tariffs on U.S. soy beans, how could you guarantee us a steady supply of soy sauce, without which our food imports from you would be useless?
We are prepared to make that sacrifice in the name of international peace. But let us set aside such sensitive matters since I’ve been informed that lunch is ready. Interestingly, we have Moo Goo Gai Pan, Peking Duck, and Shrimp with Lobster Sauce. Which would you prefer?
They’re all so delicious, I’ll take a full helping of each, with lots of soy sauce. I hope there’s enough for second-helpings!
(Whispered aside to aide: We’ve got this dickhead hooked!! Find an immediate substitute for soy bean tariffs. But don’t touch McDonalds or Burger King. We’ll need them now more than ever.)