Chinese relations complicate U.S. and S. Korea's efforts to deal with N. Korea

U.S. & S. Korea differ on N. Korea

As President Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in met to discuss a joint policy dealing with nuclear threats from North Korea, one global political risk expert, Ian Bremmer, said Friday on "CBS This Morning" that "South Korea is in the most challenging geopolitical situation right now of any developing country in the world."

One of the big reasons has to do with China's relationship with both South Korea and the U.S.

Trump says patience with North Korea is over

"South Korea, before the impeachment of President Park [Geun-hye], was getting squeezed with heavy sanctions from China because they were working more closely with the United States on North Korea, supporting this THAAD missile defense system," said Bremmer, founder and president of Eurasia Group. "Now this new opposition, liberal opposition party leader President Moon that's just been elected, he says, 'I want to talk to the North Koreans.' He's more interested in the Sunshine Policy and he absolutely wants to push back on the Americans so that the China economic relationship can go well again. It's incredibly hard to balance these things."

While South Korea may want to patch its relations with China, Washington's approach to Beijing have shifted in the last few days.

"We now have yesterday's sanctions against the Chinese bank, two individuals and a corporation because of engagement with North Korea. That's new," Bremmer said. "We have the intention of putting steel sanctions against the will of a lot of the cabinet, against a lot of countries, most importantly China. We have the new $1.4 billion military deal to the Taiwanese which in the last 24 hours the Chinese have strongly protested against. All the while, the North Korea relationship is getting worse."

Mr. Trump – who was once optimistic about China's role in pressuring North Korea to negotiate – even tweeted last week: "While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!"

All these factors will "make it much harder" for the various countries to deal with North Korea, Bremmer noted, especially as the regime is expanding its nuclear, cyber and missile capabilities.

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"Now the good news is, because Trump doesn't really care about human rights, his ability to work with the North Koreans and say, 'I want to cut a deal.' And if he did, frankly, he'd get a Nobel that he deserved more than Obama's," Bremmer said, referring to President Obama's 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. "But there's also a possibility that we end up with a direct confrontation with the North Koreans. And before either of those two things happen, the U.S.-China relationship is going to start to break because the Americans are pushing and Chinese don't want to."

As for Mr. Trump's meeting with another world leader, Russian President Vladimir Putin, at the G20 summit in Germany next week, Bremmer dismissed it as "more of a media event than substantive meeting."

"Trump has now met with every major leader in the world except Putin and it's -- this is the big windup, right? Because this is the one that no one wants him to do but everyone is titillated by," he said. "We're going to watch body language. We're going to see if they're smiling. The media is going to go nuts. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, same thing."

Bremmer said Russia has been effective at undermining the transatlantic relationship as well as U.S. interests in the Middle East and eastern Europe, but ultimately, the scale of the investigations into Russian meddling in the U.S. election "is constraining the ability of the United States to do anything with Russia."