For months, China seemed to be a side player as relations improved between North Korea and South Korea. Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, kicked off the year with an address celebrating the completion of his nuclear deterrent after months of boasting about his increasing nuclear capability. In his speech, he also expressed interest in North Korea’s participation in the Winter Olympics. That, in turn, provided Moon Jae In, the president of South Korea, with the diplomatic opening he sought. What followed: an exchange of conciliatory gestures at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, which set the stage for a meeting in Pyongyang between Kim and a team of South Korean envoys. Those same envoys then presented an invitation from Kim to meet with President Donald Trump, who had threatened North Korea’s total destruction; Trump immediately accepted. Seoul, it seemed, was in control of the fate of the Korean Peninsula.
Then, on Monday, speculative reports observed that an armored train from North Korea was en route to Beijing. Eventually, state media in China and North Korea confirmed that the visitor aboard the armored mystery train from North Korea to Beijing was none other than Kim Jong Un. For the first time in his six-year reign, Kim had finally left North Korean soil to meet the leader of his country’s oldest benefactor, China. During the visit, Kim reportedly told Xi Jinping, the president of China, what he had told South Korea’s presidential envoys: that he was ready to talk to the United States about his nuclear weapons. “It is our consistent stand to be committed to denuclearization on the peninsula, in accordance with the will of late President Kim Il Sung and late General Secretary Kim Jong Il,” Kim was quoted as having said, according to Xinhua.
The Beijing meeting showed that whatever may come of the upcoming inter-Korean and North Korea-U.S. summits, China will not be a peripheral player. Xi Jinping, fresh out of the National People’s Congress with an open-ended mandate as president of the People’s Republic, has flung himself into international diplomacy with gusto. [Continue reading…]
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