The President of China, Xi Jinping, commended the direction North Korea has taken politically. Xi Jinping visited Pyongyang, North Korea, last Wednesday to meet President Kim Jong-un. North and South Korea had published an essay on their respective official media channels on the eve of his visit, and this was met with China’s approval.
Nuclear talks between Pyongyang and Washington are at a stalemate, but President Xi did not comment on this matter. However, expert analysts believe he might use this as a Joker card later on when he visits President Kim in the upcoming summit. The theory is that he might use this when it comes to the proposed disarmament process. This is set to take place incrementally in accordance with Washington, which is meant to make concessions on certain sanctions and security issues in return.
North Korea and China (along with the Soviet Union) had been allies in the past, though it’s not a relationship that readily comes to mind nowadays. During the 3-year-long Korean war in the 1950s, China sent troops to help out North Korea in its struggle against South Korea and its U.S. allies. While China, the U.S., and the now disintegrated Soviet Union countries are no longer part of this, the North and South Korea conflict never truly ceased. South Korea never actually signed the Armistice document back in 1953, and North Korea recently repudiated any and all armistice back in 2013.
Despite China moving out of the story, they have maintained a relationship with North Korea, however strained. This relationship was always fraught with China’s criticism over North Korea’s continuing push for nuclear armament. But now, Xi Jinping said that North Korea’s most recent move would improve the relationship between them and China.
Even though Xi Jinping has stressed the positive impact on their relationship with Kim and North Korea, experts have taken it with a grain of salt. This is because China is in the middle of a taxing trade war with the United States. Xi Jinping will most likely meet President Donald Trump at the upcoming G-20 meeting in Japan. Analysts say they wouldn’t be surprised if he used Kim Jong-un as leverage. Pointing out the influence Beijing has over Pyongyang may rattle Trump’s cage, and there is no way to know how this would affect the United States–North Korea diplomatic relations.
Needless to say, Kim Jong-un is also looking to assert his position in relation to America and is hoping to bind China even more as its ally.
China is North Korea’s main lifeline, both as a military ally and as its leading economic trade partner. Its only other trading partners are India, Pakistan, and Russia, along with Burkina Faso, Thailand, and the Philippines. Experts claim it is imperative for North Korea to keep good relations with China — certainly more important than it is for China itself.
Xi Jinping claims he supports the direction the resolution of the political situation on the Korean peninsula between the neighboring North and South took. A rational solution through dialogue is one China will support.
However, the relationship between America and North Korea is not so clear-cut or optimistic.
Trump has characterized North Korean demands as excessive in regards to the sanctions relief they asked for. This is because the U.S. has only made demands for a partial nuclear armament surrender on North Korea’s part. The U.S. sanctions have not been lifted, and this wasn’t met with the most diplomatic reply on the part of North Korea. Kim stated he would look for a “new way” if he couldn’t get his way with the United States.
The respective countries have had joint meetings in the past. During a diplomatic outreach in 2018, President Kim and Xi met four times, along with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea and President Vladimir Putin of Russia.
The world is skeptical when it comes to North Korea’s nuclear disarmament. They are arguably Kim’s greatest leverage for security in a world which overwhelmingly disapproves of his administration.
Vague disarmament statements have been signed by Kim during his meetings with Presidents Moon and Trump. North Korea has expressed on multiple occasions that it will continue to develop its nuclear program until the United States remove its troops. The troops referred to are, of course, the ones supporting the nuclear umbrella that has been in place for many decades.
What will happen remains to be seen. China had already called for the suspension of the North Korea nuclear program back when there was a period of tension, and it might do so again.