What to think of Kim Jong-un’s visit to China?
After widespread speculation, both North Korea and China confirmed last week that Kim Jong-un did pay an ‘unofficial’ two-day visit to Beijing. According to reports, Kim arrived with his wife by a diplomatic train on the 25th of March, Sunday, for his first known foreign trip since taking office in 2011. The North Korean leader is scheduled to meet American and South Korean Presidents in the next two months, which is why this trip is a significant one, considering that Seoul and Washington will probably be curious to hear the Chinese position as well.
In the past few months, there has been a dramatic cooling of tensions between North Korea and its rivals. First, Kim Jong-un announced in January that he would send the North Korean athletes to South Korea for competing in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. Then, we got to witness a historic opening ceremony in which Kim Jong-un’s sister Kim Yo-jong shook hands with the South Korean President and the athletes from both Koreas marched under the unified Korea flag. In a lunch held at the presidential palace in Seoul, Kim Yo-jong also passed on an invitation to the South Korean President asking him to meet the Supreme leader of DPRK which he later accepted. This wasn’t it; things further improved when the American President Donald Trump got invited by Kim Jong-un for a summit to discuss the relations.
How did others react?
The international reaction to this visit was unsurprisingly positive, with most countries, including Russia, welcoming the meeting between Chinese and North Korean leaders. Despite international sanctions, Putin has managed to establish friendly relations with North Korea by actively trying to bolster ties.
On the other hand, the White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted that the situation has improved due to Trump Administration’s campaign of applying ‘maximum pressure’ on North Korea. She said: “this development is further evidence that the campaign of maximum pressure is creating the appropriate atmosphere for dialogue with North Korea”.
Denuclearization in the Korean Peninsula
As per media reports, the primary issue that the two leaders discussed was that of denuclearization in the Korean Peninsula. Since acquiring their first nuclear missile in 2006, North Korea has already conducted 6 nuclear tests with the latest one in 2017.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has reportedly said that China will stick to the goal of denuclearization in the peninsula, to which Kim responded: “It is our consistent stand to be committed to denuclearization.”
Despite this, Jong-un mentioned certain conditions for giving up his nuclear weapons. These conditions included the removal of the United States’ nuclear guarantee for South Korea.
China, which has historically had strong relations with North Korea, is responsible for all of North’s food and fuel aid. Pressure from the Trump administration lately has resulted in deteriorating relations between China and its eastern neighbour as it backed US moves to tighten international sanctions due to the rapidly-growing nuclear threat from North Korea.
Expecting instantaneous denuclearization in the peninsula would be something too far-fetched, as the view of denuclearization for North Korea and the US is very contradictory. The North Korean concept of denuclearization was once explained to a group of American experts by a senior North Korean official: “If you remove those threats, we will feel more secure and in ten or twenty years’ time, we may be able to consider denuclearization. In the meantime, we are prepared to meet with you as one nuclear weapon state with another to discuss arms control.”
Obviously, this concept is very different to the American one, according to which, the North Korean regime must give up on all nuclear weapons immediately and then come to the table to discuss ties with the US and the South.
Although it seems highly unlikely that North Korea has any intention of giving up nuclear weapons in the near future, positive behaviour from all sides resulting in great development must be appreciated. Willingness to negotiate based on deceptive promises may not have only eased tensions in the peninsula, but also prevented, at least for now, a military conflict.