Don’t underestimate China’s role in the next Trump-Kim summit

Don’t underestimate China’s role in the next Trump-Kim summit

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un left Beijing after talking and dining with Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to South Korean media, in a show of unity as they engage in delicate negotiations with President Donald Trump's administration.

The report came as Kim returned to Pyongyang after a trip to China, where he held talks with Xi and visited an economic development area in Beijing.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo may finally hold much-delayed high-level talks with Kim Yong-chol, the vice chairman of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party's Central Committee, who has been leading denuclearization talks with the United States and accompanied Kim Jong-un on the Beijing trip.

Kim said during his China visit this week that there is no change in North Korea's stance to faithfully carry out the agreement reached with US President Donald Trump during their Singapore summit, and pursue a peaceful resolution through discussion, KCNA said.

Officially, at least, China says it considers the tariff battle and North Korea's weapons programs to be entirely separate.

The North Korean leader's trip to China this week was a sign a second Trump-Kim summit was "imminent", he added.

China apparently prepared a grand banquet for Kim, whose 35th birthday was on Tuesday.

"The Korean peninsula situation has been easing since previous year, and China's important role in this process is obvious to all ... the DPRK side highly and sincerely appreciates the Chinese efforts", Kim said.

The campaign on sanctions may be losing steam though, with North Korea importing $640m in luxury goods from China in 2017.


Kim Jong-un visits a Tong Ren Tang pharmaceutical plant in Yizhuang, Beijing on Wednesday.

Kim's visit coincided with trade talks between Chinese and U.S. officials in Beijing. With over 90 percent of North Korea's trade volume flowing through China's borders, Xi can control the faucet of North Korea's economy better than Trump by choosing to enforce those sanctions or take a more relaxed approach. "China stands ready to work with the DPRK and relevant parties to play a positive and constructive role in maintaining peace and stability and realizing denuclearization on the peninsula and lasting peace and stability in the region".

Speculation over possible locations has swirled among Korea-watchers, with the candidates including Hanoi in Communist-ruled Vietnam, Ulan Bator in Mongolia - which Kim can reach by train - Sweden, which has a long history of mediating between Pyongyang and Washington, and even the USA state of Hawaii.

According to North Korean's official KCNA agency China supported the North's position.

President Xi Jinping has welcomed Kim Jong-un's commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

The North Korean leader is keen to achieve sanctions relief, but he seems to know Xi may be better able to grant that wish than Trump. Experts agree that while neither the U.S. nor China is "winning" in the trade war, China may be at a disadvantage.

But Hua said Kim's visit would have a "limited" effect on the trade negotiations.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has said North Korea should take bold steps towards denuclearisation, such as abandoning long-range missiles, to extract USA concessions amid a prolonged stalemate in their nuclear negotiations.

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