Xi supports N Korea in US talks

COMING SOON::Moon Jae-in said that Kim has assured him and other leaders that they share a definition of denuclearization, which is not linked to US forces nearby

AFP, SEOUL

Fri, Jan 11, 2019 - Page 6

Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) offered North Korean leader Kim Jong-un firm backing in deadlocked nuclear talks with the US, saying that the two sides should meet “halfway,” state media said yesterday.

Kim visited Beijing by train this week for two days of discussions that reasserted China’s role in the process, and were seen as a strategy session ahead of a second summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump.

At their first meeting in Singapore in June last year, Kim and Trump signed a vaguely worded document with Kim pledging to work toward the “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

Progress has since stalled with Pyongyang and Washington disagreeing over what that means.

North Korea wants relief from the multiple sets of sanctions imposed on it over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, while the US wants the measures to remain in place until Pyongyang gives up its arms.

China also wants the sanctions relaxed and Xi said he “hopes that the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] and the United States will meet each other halfway” Xinhua news agency reported.

Xi “spoke highly of the positive measures taken by the DPRK side,” it added.

Pyongyang has rejected demands for what it calls “unilateral” disarmament as “gangster-like.”

Kim noted “difficulties and concern” in talks with the US, which Xi endorsed, Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

“The principled issues suggested by the DPRK side are deserved requirements and its reasonable points of concern should be resolved properly,” it quoted Xi as saying.

Each of the previous Kim-Xi meetings have come shortly before or after the North Korean summits with either Trump or South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Trump on Sunday said that the US and North Korea were negotiating the location of their next summit, a meeting Moon yesterday said was “imminent.”

Pyongyang needs to take “bold, practical measures for denuclearization” to ensure sanctions are lifted, Moon told reporters, but added that “corresponding measures” were also needed from the US, such as agreeing a “peace regime” and formally declaring an end to the Korean War.

The Singapore agreement was “somewhat vague” and there was “skepticism” over Kim’s denuclearization pledge, Moon added.

However, Kim had assured him and other leaders that his view of denuclearization was “no different in any way from what the international community demands,” Moon said, adding that Pyongyang would not link it to the presence of US forces in South Korea or nearby.

Nonetheless, a commentary carried by KCNA last month said that when Pyongyang refers to “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” it includes the North, South and “surrounding areas from where the Korean Peninsula is targeted.”

Kim Han-kwon, an analyst at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy, said that preliminary talks between Pyongyang and Washington would be crucial.

“If what the North puts on the table after its summit with China fails to meet Washington’s expectations, there will be conflict and fresh doubts about whether a second summit should take place,” he said.

Beijing stands ready to “play a positive and constructive role in maintaining peace and stability, and realizing denuclearization on the peninsula and lasting peace and stability in the region,” Xinhua cited Xi as saying.