See More on Facebook

Diplomacy

China’s Xi Jinping starts North Korea visit

Economy and nuclear weapons will be top issues.


Written by

Updated: June 20, 2019

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Pyongyang for his state visit to North Korea on Thursday (June 20), Chinese state media reported.

He was accompanied by a clutch of senior officials, as Beijing looks to bolster North Korea a week before Mr Xi and US President Donald Trump are due to meet amid a bitter trade dispute. He arrived in Pyongyang at 11.40am local time, according to a tweet from People’s Daily.

Mr Xi, who will be in North Korea for two days, is the first Chinese leader to visit the reclusive country in 14 years after relations between the Cold War-era allies deteriorated over Pyongyang’s nuclear provocations and Beijing’s subsequent backing of United Nations sanctions.  His entourage includes the head of China’s state economic planner.

Mr Xi flew to North Korea on Thursday with his wife Peng Liyuan, Foreign Minister Wang Yi and other officials, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

Chinese flags were raised in key locations and along roads throughout Pyongyang, alternating with North Korean emblems.

Neighbour China is the North’s only major ally, and the visit comes amid renewed tension on the Korean peninsula as the United States seeks to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons.  The trip is also an assertion of a key leverage point that China has in its deteriorating relationship with the United States, diplomats say.

“Comrade Xi Jinping is visiting… in the face of crucial and grave tasks due to complex international relations, which clearly shows the Chinese party and the government place high significance on the friendship,” the North’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper said.

The trip highlights two-way ties that “never waver despite any headwinds,” and strengthens “blood ties” between the two peoples, it added in a front-page commentary.

Mr Xi will hold a summit with Mr Kim, attend a welcoming banquet and then see a mass gymnastic performance on his first day, according to Chinese state media.

He is also expected to pay tribute at the Friendship Tower, which commemorates Chinese troops who fought together with North Koreans during the 1950-53 Korean War.

Both leaders are meeting just a week before a Group of 20 summit in Osaka where Mr Xi and Mr Trump are due to discuss a bid to reset ties poisoned by a bitter trade dispute.

The timing of Mr Xi’s visit to North Korea was no accident, said Li Zhonglin, a North Korea expert at China’s Yanbian University.  China could be hoping to play a role in coaxing the North and the United States to resume denuclearisation talks after this year’s failed Kim-Trump summit in Hanoi, he added.

“President Xi’s visit to North Korea can play a positive role in bringing about a third US-North Korea summit,” Li said. “China wants a breakthrough.”

Negotiations between Mr Trump and Mr Kim soured after their second summit in February broke up without a deal, failing to agree on what Pyongyang would be willing to give up in exchange for sanctions relief.

Beijing’s own trade negotiations with Washington hit a wall last month.

Mr Xi could come back from Pyongyang with some leverage when he meets Mr Trump at the G-20 summit in Japan next week.

In a rare opinion piece published in North Korea’s official newspaper on Wednesday, Mr Xi hailed the “irreplaceable” friendship of the neighbouring nations and offered a “grand plan” to bring permanent stability to East Asia.

He also vowed that Beijing would play an active role in “strengthening communication and coordination with North Korea and other relevant parties” to push forward negotiations on the Korean peninsula.

Beijing had fretted over being sidelined after the North Korean leader agreed to meet Mr Trump last year, with the US leader going as far as declaring he had fallen “in love” with Mr Kim.

The editorial was a not-so-subtle reminder that Beijing remains Pyongyang’s closest ally.

China sees the North as a strategic buffer from South Korea, keeping the 28,500 US troops in South Korea far from its borders.

Yongwook Ryu, an international relations expert at the National University of Singapore, said Mr Xi could be making a “serious mistake” if he tries to use North Korea as a bargaining chip with Mr Trump, because the US leader separates security issues from economic ones.

“If Xi can put pressure on North Korea to denuclearise, that is, offer some carrot to Trump, then he could perhaps get a concession from Trump or make a trade deal with Trump more likely,” Prof Ryu said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang has dismissed concerns that Beijing’s close ties with Pyongyang could be used to put pressure on the US, saying “people with such an idea are just over-thinking”.

Mr Zhao Tong, North Korea expert at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre think-tank in Beijing, said he does not expect any “substantive discussions” on denuclearisation during the meeting, because “China and North Korea do not have enough mutual trust”.

Mr Xi’s entourage includes China’s two top diplomats and He Lifeng, head of the National Development and Reform Commission, Chinese state media said in a brief report.

China may step up people-to-people exchanges to provide economic help without overtly breaking sanctions and as a way to extend humanitarian aid without offending North Korean pride, said Leif-Eric Easley, who studies North-east Asian security ties at Ewha Womans University in the South Korean capital of Seoul.

State media say drought has hit North Korea, with international aid groups reporting food production has dropped dramatically amid poor harvests.

“More experts may travel from China to support North Korea’s technical capacity building, and more Chinese tourist arrivals will help North Korea deal with its shortfall in foreign currency under sanctions.”



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


About the Author: The Straits Times is Singapore's top-selling newspaper.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Diplomacy

Internet healthcare serving homebound patients in China

Online consultations, pharmaceutical deliveries play vital role during outbreak. One recent rainy day, Wu Hong was waiting at the gate of her residential community in Wuhan, Hubei province. When a deliveryman with a bag of medicine came into sight, she was greatly relieved. Wu’s mother-in-law is a breast-cancer patient and needs to take medicine regularly. Wu’s father suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and inhalers have been in short supply. As the novel coronavirus epidemic grew more serious, Wu wasn’t permitted to take her family to the hospital for drug refills. She was left in a state of restless anxiety. On Feb 26, Wu and her husband saw a news segment on TV saying that the Wuhan government had enabled online reimbursement se


By China Daily
March 13, 2020

Diplomacy

India’s Congress suffers setback after key leader defects to BJP

Move by Scindia and 22 legislators could trigger fall of Congress-led govt in central Madhya Pradesh state. The Congress has suffered a political setback following the resignation of Mr Jyotiraditya Scindia and 22 legislators in Madhya Pradesh state, deepening an existential crisis for a party that is struggling for political relevance in modern Indian politics. Mr Scindia, 49, an articulate leader, yesterday joined Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with legislators loyal to him expected to follow suit. The move could lead to the collapse of the Congress-led Madhya Pradesh government. That would give the BJP a chance to form the government in the Hindi heartland state, which is seen as key objective for


By The Straits Times
March 12, 2020

Diplomacy

Chinese Red Cross teams aid Iran’s COVID-19 fight

Humanitarian group to help Iranians with containment measures that worked in China. Voices on the other end of the line cut in and out due to a poor phone connection as officials at the Red Cross Society of China’s headquarters in Beijing attempted to talk to staff members on the ground in Iran on Tuesday morning. As the signal stabilised, the latest developments in controlling the novel coronavirus pneumonia epidemic in Teheran streamed into a conference room packed with Red Cross managers. Zhou Xiaohang, head of a five-member team-four medics and a Farsi interpreter sent to assist with COVID-19 control in Iran-said Iranians are increasingly taking precautions such as wearing face masks and washing their hands more often.


By China Daily
March 11, 2020

Diplomacy

Shortage of Masks, Handwash due to panic- buying: Leave some for everyone

Despite repeated calls by global and local health experts and warnings from government, panic-buying grips the country. Global health experts have warned against hoarding masks, handwash and sanitisers during the coronavirus outbreak as it could worsen the situation by depriving those who might need them. Despite this, panic-buying of these products in Dhaka has been triggered by news of the first confirmed coronavirus cases in the country. Across the capital, several pharmacies and superstores have been facing a shortage of masks, antiseptic liquids and sanitisers since Sunday afternoon. The demand for tissue papers has also almost doubled overnight, some retailers claimed. Many of the retail stores, super shops and pharmacies in Karwan Bazar, M


By Daily Star
March 10, 2020

Diplomacy

MH17 trial in Malaysia begins today

It was reported that MH17 was shot down by a BUK missile while flying over the conflict-hit eastern Ukraine. The trial will begin today. All eyes will be on the District Court of The Hague at the Schiphol Judicial Complex (JCS) in Badhoevedorp as the criminal proceeding against four men accused of shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 begins. It was reported that MH17 was shot down by a BUK missile while flying over the conflict-hit eastern Ukraine. All 298 people on board, comprising 43 Malaysians, 193 Dutch nationals and 27 Australians, were killed. Members of the Malaysian media here to cover the start of the trial were given a briefing by press secretary for the judge, Yolande Wijnnobel, on what to expect at the start of the much-awai


By The Star
March 9, 2020

Diplomacy

OPINION: ‘Righteous’ women

So who is this ‘righteous’ woman that would never dare join Aurat Marchers? ‘TIS the season to be righteous, or so many prominent Pakistanis on TV and social media along with the religious right would have us believe. Pakistan suffers from hypocritical moral policing at the best of times — in homes, colleges and universities, places of religious worship, and the workplace — but the trigger for the current frenzy is the impending Aurat Marches in many cities of the country. Given that these marches only began three years ago, one can only marvel at how rapidly they have gotten under the proverbial skin of their highly agitated opponents. Enough has been said and written about the wider context of the marches and why they threaten the


By ANN Members
March 6, 2020