Kim Jong Un makes his third visit to China, a central player in East Asian diplomacy
June 18 at 11:34 PM Email the author
BEIJING â" North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is visiting China on Tuesday and Wednesday, Chinese state media reported Tuesday.
The news of the visit comes a week after President Trump met with Kim in Singapore and a day after the United States confirmed it will cancel âwar gamesâ with South Korea scheduled for August. It also came hours after the Trump administration threatened China with $200 billion in tariffs.
Though neither the Chinese nor North Korean side has released details about his itinerary, the timing of Kimâs third visit is a reminder of Beijingâs central role in East Asian diplomacyâ"and its power over Pyongyang.
âAlthough it seems there is a booming romance between Kim Jong Un and Trump, Kim understands the hierarchy, he knows that Xi is the Asian Godfather,â said Yanmei Xie, a Ch ina policy analyst at Gavekal Dragonomics in Beijing.
âHe is making a pragmatic calculation that China can provide economic assistance to integrate North Korea diplomatically and economically into northeast Asia,â she said.
Though Trump has taken great pains to cast the Singapore summit as an unqualified success, North Korea watchers stress that the U.S., North Korea and China remain deeply split on how to move forward.
What Trump and Kim announced last week is very much in line with Chinaâs longstanding âdual suspensionâ or âfreeze for freezeâ plan â" a proposal that asks North Korea to suspend nuclear testing in return for a suspension of military exercises.
With testing haltedâ"for nowâ"and Augustâs war games off, the question is what comes next.
The summit closed with a call for the âcomplete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,â but there is no consensus on what that actually means.
The U.S. wants North Kor ea to abandon the nuclear weapons program that it took years to build â" an outcome experts see as all but impossible. For now, China and other countries in the region seem to be willing to put aside the question of denuclearization to keep things moving in the right direction.
âThere is a regional effort, a sort of northeast Asia coalition of make-believe, to maintain the fiction that the North Korea will de-nuke as long as Americans keep talking to it,â said Xie.
In the meantime, China will push ahead with efforts to normalize North Koreaâs economic and diplomatic status.
With North Korea still struggling under United Nations sanctions, âChinaâs political and economic support is still highly important,â said Zhao Tong, a North Korea expert at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing.
The question now, said Zhao, is âHow can China help North Korea develop its economy?â
The staging of his trips to China is alrea dy starting to change a bit.
On Kimâs first visit as leader, in March, he arrived unannounced in the Chinese capital aboard an armored train. Beijing did not announce his presence, or publish pictures, until he left.
He met Xi a second time in May in the Chinese port city of Dalian. Photographs of the two leaders strolling and chatting by the seaside were not released until Kim was on his way home.
On Tuesday morning, there were reports of tight security around Beijing. Not long after, Chinese state media confirmed Kim would be in town.
A South Korea Unification Ministry official said Tuesday that officials were closely monitoring any possible statements from Kim and the Chinese leadership.
Brian Murphy in Seoul and Shirley Zhao in Beijing contributed to this report.
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