Jacob Heilbrunn, editor of the National Interest, spoke with Maurice R. Green-berg in mid-November 2017 in New York. Greenberg is chairman emeritus of the Center for the National Interest's board of directors and chairman and CEO of C.V. Starr & Co., Inc.
Jacob Heilbrunn: What is your assessment of the approach of China and America to North Korea?
Maurice R. Greenberg: When it comes to North Korea, there is no visible change that you can see--obviously there is a lot of gossip about the situation. When I met with President Xi, I asked him directly about North Korea, and he said that they are working on it--he wasn't very specific. That has to be a high priority for us: South Korea and Japan. If we don't see progress, then sooner or later, Japan and South Korea will want to become nuclear powers. That is not in China's interest. Everybody knows that, so the question is obvious: what has to be done?
It is not the missiles that I am concerned about, it is the leader, Kim Jong-un. How do you change him or get rid of him? It has to be one or the other. I can speculate, but that doesn't do any good. All the countries involved know what I am thinking as well--they're thinking the same way. It must be resolved, and it is going to be sooner rather than later.
Had Europe, France and the United States acted on a timely basis and stopped Hitler before he really started, World War II might have been avoided and millions of people would have been saved. Failure to act is not a great strategy.
Heilbrunn: Do you think Russia will play a role in the resolution?
Greenberg: They are playing a role now by trading with North Korea. President Trump has alluded to this. How do you cut off all trade? China is still trading with North Korea. I don't know if there is an easy solution. It is unclear how President Trump can influence President Vladimir Putin. They spoke in Vietnam and had conversations on different topics--including Syria, including allegations of interfering with our elections.
Heilbrunn: What should President Trump do next toward China--what would be beneficial moves for American interests?
Greenberg: Don't have a meeting, as President Trump and President Xi did, which from all outward appearances was quite good, but then President Trump departs China and starts hammering on about something different. You have to be consistent with what you are doing. I was in China about the time when President Trump arrived. I am on the advisory board of Tsinghua University, the top university in China. After the advisory board meeting, we met with President Xi. I think President Trump had a much better visit and relationship with President Xi than I think many people realized or acknowledged. Many of the things that China gave in on were being negotiated for some time before, but nonetheless, there was definite progress. China did agree that foreign life insurance companies, which currently could own up to 50 percent of a life operation in China, will go to 51 percent very soon, and in five years, likely to 100 percent, which is...