The leaders of China and North Korea used a summit this week to project a show of unity in the face of stalled negotiations over Pyongyang’s nuclear program and to press the U.S. to compromise.
The meetings gave Beijing a platform to underline its clout in global affairs and its critical leverage in resolving one of Washington’s top security challenges. The U.S., embroiled in an increasingly bitter dispute with China over trade practices, needs the cooperation of President Xi Jinping to enforce sanctions on North Korea and to nudge his Communist ally into making concessions toward giving up his nuclear arsenal.
For Kim Jong Un, his fourth visit in a year to China carried a purposeful reminder for the Trump administration that it should prepare to give ground to get a denuclearization deal. The regime has been calling for sanctions relief from the U.S.
China’s leadership was instrumental in tightening sanctions and prodding Mr. Kim to the negotiating table last year. As North Korea’s biggest trading partner, aid provider and investor, China is critical to maintaining the pressure. To move ahead with denuclearization, Mr. Xi’s government has suggested a phased approach in which North Korean concessions should be met with ones from the international community—a position potentially at odds with Washington’s.
On Thursday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in pressed the U.S. and North Korea to break the impasse in denuclearization talks, saying reciprocal concessions were needed to achieve the U.S. goal of disarming Pyongyang and Mr. Kim’s goal of obtaining sanctions relief.
With U.N. sanctions still in place, China’s willingness to aid North Korea’s economic ambitions is limited, said Kim Heung-kyu, a professor of political science at Ajou University in South Korea. “At the end, if North Korea wants what it wants, like becoming a normal state, pursuing economic growth, then it must achieve a breakthrough in talks with the U.S.,” he said.
[Wall Street Journal]