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Matthis and Tillerson were correct in saying America is not seeking regime change or the obliteration of North Korea. But M&T are not in charge of America, just as Trump is not, because US foreign policy is currently set de facto by the Congress and Senate, the US constitution notwithstanding. This is the reality on the ground. If Trump cannot get any Peace Treaty done without achieving regime change or capitulation by North Korea, he will be branded an "appeaser", as he has recently branded Moon as. With this logic, Peace is appeasement without prior regime change, and therefore, not permissible by Congress. In order to strike a deal, and to negotiate on behalf of the country, Trump must be able to give and to take, or to pull and to push. As it is, he cannot give without being called a traitor or coward, and he loves this handicap because it forces Kim to give, which is probably true to some extent, and for some limited time, but Kim has his own constraints, because he has built up the highest expectations of the public, his military and his government, that he will achieve nuclear power status regardless of the odds, and therefore, obviously, everyone knows, the mutually nerve-wracking game of Chicken is going to transform into a certainty (not a game anymore) of two turkeys driving their trains toward each other, on one single pair of rails, with their brakes disabled.|
This situation is no longer a game, where there is some uncertainty about the outcome, nor is it a joke, where the outcome is trivial or symbolic, but simply, a disaster in motion.
Here, the engine of the trains are at the back, while the passengers and crews are in the boxes at the front. On one side, you have South Korea, then Japan, then America moving towards the other train, headed by North Korea, then China, then Russia. Nobody, but nobody, can really say how the disaster will end, except, it will end like a disaster ought to end.
At this point, you hear all the cajoling, hooting, shouting at each other, in the vain hope that such bluster will stop the other train from crashing into one's own train. There is now an increasing chorus whistling, shouting, and screaming at China for allowing North Korea to keep coming onward like there is no tomorrow. On the other side, there is a lot of whispering, silent signaling, and throat clearing, to let Trump know, this won't work, and the result will not be pretty. But the logic of their irrationality, expecting the other side to be rational without being rational oneself, cannot be aborted by appeals to logic, because the logic itself is based on the premise that one is always right.
China has the chance to stand up to the plate and acting like a true referee, DEMAND rational rule-based behavior from both sides, but this is a role China does not feel it has the ability to do. It feels too weak, and too vulnerable, and possibly too careless about its own self-interest, to try to mediate a crisis by putting its own security and economic prosperity at stake. Yet, it is the only rational way to end this dual train of disasters in motion, which is the equivalent of setting up a traffic signal or signals somewhere in the middle section of this railroad track, set up immovable barricades to force the trains to slow down and stop at the China station, and have everyone disembark, come to its dinner table, sit down, and talk about how to manage their differences.
By avoiding the role of the referee, China is setting itself up to be regarded as a part of the Korean train, to be coerced economically, and eventually, to be opposed militarily.
China can choose to jump off the Pyongyang Express, and end up eventually having to fight to retain its buffer zone in the Korean peninsula after NK is destroyed, or it can get on the front of the Pyongyang Express, separate from it and run ahead of it, in order to set up the way station somewhere down the rail route, and force both trains to stop at the place of its choice, and resolve their differences under the conditions that it imposes. It is better to use power to establish peace with a certain end, than to use thrice that power to fight a war with an uncertain conclusion.