Thu, Jun 20, 2019 - Page 5 News List

Xi supports N Korea’s direction on issues ahead of visit

AP, SEOUL

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, right, is cheered by children during a welcome ceremony held by Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Jan. 8.

Photo: AP

Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) said that North Korea is taking the “right direction” by politically resolving issues on the Korean Peninsula in a rare opinion piece published by a North Korean state newspaper yesterday, a day before he visits Pyongyang to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Xi did not mention the stalled nuclear weapons talks between Washington and Pyongyang in the Rodong Sinmun article, but experts say that during his summit with Kim, Xi is likely to endorse North Korean calls for an incremental disarmament process in which every action Pyongyang takes it met with US concessions on sanctions and security issues.

Xi said that his two-day visit would “strengthen strategic communication and exchange” between the traditional allies.

Xi, who is locked in a bitter trade dispute with US President Donald Trump and ahead of an expected meeting between the leaders at the G20 meetings in Japan, is expected to try to use the summit with Kim as leverage, by reminding Trump of Beijing’s influence with Pyongyang, which could either help or disrupt US-North Korea diplomacy, experts say.

Kim also wants to strengthen his own position against Trump and is obviously seeking to cement China, the North’s only major ally and economic lifeline, as a major player in the process.

It was not the first time that a Chinese leader had written in North Korean state media, South Korean Ministry of Unification spokesman Lee Sang-min said.

The ministry did not immediately provide other examples.

Nuclear negotiations between the US and North Korea have been on a standstill since February when a summit between Kim and Trump collapsed over what Washington described as excessive North Korean demands for sanctions relief in exchange for only a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities.

Kim has said that he would seek a “new way” if the US persists with sanctions and pressure against North Korea.

The Trump administration has said that sanctions would remain in place until the North commits to fully and verifiably relinquishing its nuclear and missile program upfront.

Kim met Xi four times in China last year during a diplomatic outreach that also included meetings with Trump, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

While Kim is trying to leverage his nuclear weapons and missiles for economic and security benefits, there are doubts about whether he would ever fully deal away an arsenal that he might see as his strongest guarantee for survival.

Kim during his summits with Trump and Moon signed vague statements on a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, but the North for decades has vowed to pursue nuclear development until Washington removes its troops and the nuclear umbrella defending South Korea and Japan.

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