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

Pyongyang confirms ready to resume talks, but gives conditions

Foreign minister confuses lawmakers on whether North Korean leader’s letter to Trump was different to one already made public. The long-stalled US-North Korea working level talks on denuclearization could take place soon, a senior North Korea official signaled in a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency on Monday that also set out conditions for the resumption of dialogue. The director general of the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s department of American affairs said working-level talks will likely take place in a few weeks. He said the two countries may forge closer relations or hostility depend on what Washington brings to the table. But he also set out a number of conditions.


By The Korea Herald
September 17, 2019

Diplomacy

President blames China for ‘suppressing Taiwan int’l space’

The Solomon Islands is the latest country to not recognise Taiwan. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) strongly condemned Solomon Islands’ decision to establish diplomatic relations with China in a major statement released on Monday. The president blamed China for using “financial and political pressure to suppress Taiwan’s international space” and called Beijing’s action “a threat,” but also a “brazen challenge and detriment to the international order.” Taiwan’s attitude towards its diplomatic allies has been one of sincere friendship, she said, stressing that Taiwan spares “no effort” and treats allies with “sincerity.” In the face of China’s alleged interference, however, she added that “we will not stand to be threatened, nor will we be subjected to ceaseless demands.” The president also stressed that Taiwan will not engage in “dollar diplomacy” with China


By ANN Members
September 17, 2019

Diplomacy

Rohingyas inside Myanmar still facing genocide threat: UN report

The report outlines a grim future for 600,000 or so Rohingya still trapped in Myanmar. Around 600,000 Rohingyas remaining inside Myanmar face systematic persecution and live under the threat of genocide, said the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar in a new report published today. “The threat of genocide continues for the Rohingyas remaining in Myanmar,” said Marzuki Darusman, chair of the Fact-Finding Mission. The Mission, which was formed by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2017, last year said its investigation had found “genocidal acts” in Myanmar’s “clearance operations” in 2017 that killed thousands and caused more than 740,000 Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh. “Myanmar is failing in its obligation to prevent genocide, to investigate genocide and to enact effective legislation criminalizing and punishing genocide,” Darusman said.


By Daily Star
September 17, 2019

Diplomacy

‘War with India a possibility’, Imran Khan says

The comments come weeks after a Pakistani minister had reportedly predicted a ‘full-blown war between Pakistan and India likely to occur in the month of October or November’. Days after Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that the possibility of an “accidental war” with India over the Kashmir issue cannot be ruled out, its Prime Minister Imran Khan said that he “absolutely believes” in such a consequence. While speaking to news channel Al Jazeera, Imran Khan raised the issue of Kashmir and said that there is a possibility of a conventional war with India that could go beyond the subcontinent. “So that’s why we have approached the United Nations, we are approaching every international forum, that they must act right now,” he said, adding that he “absolutely” believes war with India could be a possibility. “…this is a potential disaster that would go way be


By The Statesman
September 17, 2019

Diplomacy

Pakistan and India face common threats, climate change is the biggest one

Collective action may just be what is needed to secure the lives and livelihoods of future generations. Climate change is no longer limited to books or scientific papers; it is a reality knocking on our doors. Longer, sweltering summers bringing in record-breaking heat to South Asia are just one example. The harshest of conditions have yet to come, and the entire region is woefully unprepared to meet the challenges. While they may seem isolated, increasing instances of extreme weather are harbingers of a major climate shift for South Asia. Unlike transnational challenges like security and trade, climate change cannot be deterred by conventional methods or unilateral initiatives. Instead, synchronised common action is the viable way forward for sustainable progress to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Let’s look at some of the common environmental challenges facing Pakistan


By Dawn
September 17, 2019

Diplomacy

Iran rejects US claim it was behind Saudi oil strikes, says ready for war

All sides in the Middle East have stepped up their rhetoric in recent days. Iran dismissed accusations by the United States that it was behind attacks on Saudi oil plants that risk disrupting global energy supplies and warned on Sunday that US bases and aircraft carriers in the region were in range of its missiles. Yemen’s Houthi group claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attacks that knocked out more than half of Saudi oil output or more than 5 per cent of global supply, but US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the assault was the work of Iran, a Houthi ally. The drone strikes on plants in the heartland of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry, including the world’s biggest petroleum processing facility, were expected to send oil prices up $5-10 per barrel on Monday as tensions rise in the Middle East. Iran’s President Hass


By Dawn
September 16, 2019