Tracy Lee Carroll / Flickr Donald Trump in Portsmouth...
Tracy Lee Carroll / Flickr

Donald Trump is currently on his way back from his Singapore “summit” with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, and Republican lawmakers, U.S. military leaders and his own vice president are using the time to hurriedly try to make sense of what Trump did or did not promise during the closed-door meeting. China, however, appeared to know the details before Trump had even appeared to announce it. And as Josh Marshall points out, that’s quite the intriguing little tidbit.

The BBC correspondent in Beijing and the BBC Bureau Chief for North America say that China (specifically, the government spokesman in a daily briefing) announced that the US had agreed to suspend military exercises with South Korea before President Trump announced it in his press conference. In other words, they knew in advance.

So the Chinese government had a scoop that no other nation knew. Not U.S. reporters, and not the now-alarmed South Korean government. Setting aside speculation that China perhaps had a bug in the room, the straightforward explanation would be that the North Korean diplomats briefed their Chinese counterparts immediately after the offer was made.

What does it mean, other than North Korea continues to rely on China for rapid-response backup as it attempts to break free of worldwide economic sanctions? At the least, it suggests that Trump indeed made the offer—or at least that the North Koreans interpreted it that way. And that’s more clarity than Trump has given to the members of his own administration, who are still struggling to parse out just what Trump meant by the statement that the U.S. would be ending joint military exercises—a radical move, made in exchange for seemingly no North Korean concession whatsoever.

The rest of us, including Republican lawmakers, are still in the dark as to just what exactly Trump promised. An end to war games, or to all joint exercises, period? For how long? Because why?Nobody, not even the U.S. military, seems to know. We might need to ask China.

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