Analysis by WorldTribune Staff, June 19, 2018
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un on June 19 began a two-day visit to Beijing being viewed as a vain attempt by China’s maximum leader Xi Jinping to save face after the international spectacle of the historic June 12 Kim-Trump summit.
In his third visit to China in as many months, Kim was expected to brief Chinese supreme leader Xi Jinping on his Singapore meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump although what was said privately in the 1-on-1 meeting is known only to the two men.
China’s state-run CCTV aired footage of Kim’s summit with Xi at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in what Yonhap News called “a very rare public announcement” of Kim’s trip.
Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan greeted Kim and his wife Ri Sol-Ju at the Great Hall of the People, and Kim inspected a Chinese honor guard, the Yonhap report said.
“It appears that Kim intends to express his gratitude to China for providing support during his summit with Trump, such as offering a plane, while explaining the major agenda items discussed during the summit and pushing to take the initiative through consultations on the future situation,” said Shin Beom-Chul, a senior fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.
Yoo Hyun-Jung, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Strategy, said that Kim’s third visit to Beijing must be meant to enlist support from China, especially in relaxing sanctions imposed on Pyongyang now that tensions are easing.
The U.S. has said that there will be no sanctions relief until Pyongyang’s denuclearization. The North has claimed that Trump expressed his intention during the summit to lift sanctions “along with advances in improving the mutual relationship through dialogue and negotiation.”
Trump agreed to work with Kim toward complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, committed to provide the North’s regime with security guarantees and agreed to end military exercises with South Korea while good faith negotiations were in progress.
Beijing is said to have been particularly pleased with Trump’s announcement to suspend military drills but cannot be happy at being excluded from negotiations that could lead to rapid economic development on the Korean peninsula. China has been North Korea’s top strategic ally and primary economic benefactor and previous U.S. policy relied on Beijing to broker talks with Pyongyang.
Xi met five times with former South Korean President Park Geun-Hye while snubbing Kim Jong-Un until earlier this year.