Why Kim Jong Un’s visit to China was so important
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made a very important visit to China on 8-10 January. The timing was crucial as he is expected to meet US President Donald Trump soon. It will be a continuation of his first-ever meeting with Trump in June 2018 in Singapore. They signed a deal to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, but it was not made clear what exactly this would entail.
Pyongyang wants Washington to lift the sanctions the United Nations imposes on the country because of its nuclear and missile programmes. Due to these sanctions, North Korea is suffering a severe economic crisis. North Korea argues that the US needs to respond in kind to the steps it has taken towards denuclearization, such as dismantling a nuclear testing site and a key missile engine facility.
Since his first meeting with Trump, the issue of denuclearization remains pressing as no tangible progress has been achieved on the ground. Even Kim said in his annual New Year’s speech that he remained committed to denuclearization, but warned that he would change course if sanctions remained in place. That might result in serious consequences, dashing the world’s hopes for peace after the summit in Singapore.
China fully supports the idea of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and is willing to help make it a reality. However, China understands the North Korean point of view and agrees with “the legitimate issues raised by [North Korea] are rightful demands and that China fully agrees that [North Korea’s] reasonable interests should be justly resolved.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping held talks on January 8 with Kim, who had just arrived in Beijing for a three-day visit. In a cordial atmosphere, the two leaders had an in-depth exchange of views on China-North Korea relations and issues of common concern.
Kim’s visit coincided with the 70th Anniversary of the establishment of the China-North Korea diplomatic relationship, which fully embodied the great importance Kim attaches to the two countries’ traditional friendship and his friendship with the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) and the Chinese people. “I highly appreciate it, and on behalf of the CPC, the Chinese government and the Chinese people, extend sincere festival greetings to [Kim] and the government and the people of [North Korea],” Xi said.
The whole world is focused on how to make progress on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula
China is a major supporter and trading partner of North Korea. While North Korea was suffering isolation due to its nuclear programme, China maintained close ties with Pyongyang. Before the last summit, Kim also visited China and sought political support, and the purpose of his latest visit is to secure China’s political and moral support.
The whole world is focused on how to make progress on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which Kim has reaffirmed his commitment to, but he also wants a positive response from the US side.
In light of a geopolitical situation that emerged recently, one can predict the US response. Trump has announced that he is pulling US troops out of Afghanistan and Syria. The US has spent massive sums of money in Afghanistan but cannnot win the war, so it is now seeking peace by negotiating with the Talban. These costly military campaigns have made the US weaker.
On the domestic front, in the midterm elections, Trump lost Congress to the Democrats, which has weakened his position. It is therefore expected that when there is a second summit between Kim and Trump, the US president will show some flexibility, and there may be some positive developments in terms of moving toward the peace and stability the people of the world desire.