A very unusual report from Reuters announces the White House has extended an invitation for the entire U.S. Senate to come to the White House for a policy and security briefing on North Korea. The briefing is scheduled for 3pm Wednesday:
(Via Reuters) Top Trump administration officials will hold a rare briefing on Wednesday at the White House for the entire U.S. Senate on the situation in North Korea, senior Senate aides said on Monday.
All 100 senators have been asked to the White House for the briefing by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the aides said.
While top administration officials routinely travel to Capitol Hill to address members of Congress on foreign policy and national security matters, it is unusual for the entire 100-member Senate to go to such an event at the White House, and for those four top officials to be involved.
U.S. officials have expressed mounting concern over North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests, and its threats to attack the United States and its Asian allies. (read more)
The central approach toward North Korea by President Trump has been clear ever since the earliest dates of the 2016 GOP primary when he presented the outlook that China holds the key to constraints upon North Korea.
Since taking office President Trump has followed the strategy of using the U.S. relationship with China as strategic leverage. This has been evidenced by the Trump administration tying benefits to China for their efforts in applying economic leverage upon North Korea.
However, there are limits to what China will be willing to do, not because they are unwilling per se’, but rather specifically because China is unwilling to be seen on the world stage as being leveraged by the U.S. In this regard it’s a matter of pride over principle.
Ultimately if the China-Leverage approach is to work, the Trump administration needs to position China as the ‘good cop’, and the US as the ‘bad cop’. This gives Xi Jinping the ability to criticize the U.S. for aggressive posturing toward North Korea. This also positions Xi as the magnanimous world leader bringing prudent pause with the cessation of hostility.
It will be interesting to see if this is the first time President Trump has allowed his team to express openly to congress what the long-ball strategy is with China. President Trump explaining exactly how to best stroke the panda fur and achieve a mutually beneficial outcome.
All previous action by the White House in this regard has been the intentional non-connection of policy and strategy dots allowing everyone to fill in the space between words with their own assumptions.
This could be the first time POTUS tells congress what the larger, more consequential, objectives are; and specifically what the Senate needs to know about the potential for the ‘bad cop’ to punch a hole in the wall just prior to exiting the room and setting the stage for ‘good cop’ Xi Jinping’s entry.