China’s Role in North Korea-USA Summit

China (photo: Pixabay)
By Faith MagbanuaJune 19th, 2018

As the US and North Korea prepare for their historic summit in Singapore on Tuesday, June 12, 2018, China's influence in the talks remains a mystery.

Beijing is Pyongyang's only significant, long-standing ally, as well as Washington's most powerful, long-term strategic rival.

These positions gives it a huge role in determining whether or not any agreement reached between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un can be turned into a success.

As the two leaders get all the attention, it is a question for many what China thinks about the talks.

However, considering China's interest in both countries, a return to diplomacy and dialogue has sometimes seemed like an end in itself for Beijing.

But while China's patience with North Korea has been seen to be wearing thin in the recent years, it is still an old ally. America is still known as a common strategic rival for Beijing.

However, it is likely to be far more pragmatic about the possibility of Kim Jong-un unilaterally negotiating away his hard-won nuclear deterrent, and if President Kim is able to win any concessions from President Trump - any shift in the US military posture on or around the Korean peninsula for example - China will see an advantage for itself of course.

China's influence over North Korea

Beijing may have signed up for the hardest sanctions ever against its neighbor, but it did so arguing, with some logic, that the more economically isolated Pyongyang becomes, the more the regime is incentivized to pursue its strategy of nuclear deterrence.

Remarkably, President Xi and Chairman Kim met for the first time just three months ago, and they've met again since.

The two meetings came only after the Trump-Kim summit has been announced.

However, with the Singapore summit, Beijing is likely to increase its influence one way or another regardless of the result of the discussions.

Beijing's influence over Pyongyang has waned over the years, particularly since China backed tougher United Nations sanctions against North Korea in September over the North's repeated nuclear tests.

It is also not certain what role China would play in any peace process to formally end the Korean war, with both Washington and Seoul avoiding all mention of Beijing in recent statements about potential negotiations.

Statements from China

According to the Chinese government's top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, China is hoping the United States and North Korea can reach agreement on a peace deal.

"We hope that the two countries' highest leaders can dispel interference, establish mutual trust, overcome difficulties and can reach a basic consensus on promoting and achieving the denuclearization of the peninsula and promoting and establishing a peace mechanism for the peninsula," Wang told reporters.

"Of course, we are willing to see all relevant sides making positive efforts on this. China will continue to play our constructive role," he added.

On the contrary, China actually serves as the key "mediator" between the two countries, with the summit nearly getting pushed-back, China's influence has gave a positive notion for U.S and North Korea.

Despite the negative outlooks both country has given one another, it is safe to say that everything will now be subject to a peaceful meeting.

China sees the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue as a security issue, and what is most important is for the United States and North Korea to sit down to find a way to resolve their problems, Wang said.

"At the same time, there needs to be a peace mechanism for the peninsula, to resolve North Korea's reasonable security concerns. I think nobody can doubt the extremely unique and important role China has played. And this role will continue."







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