Nukes and Peace: What Was N Korea's Kim Doing in China

© AP Photo / Ju PengIn this photo provided Wednesday, March 28, 2018, by China's Xinhua News Agency, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands in Beijing, China.
In this photo provided Wednesday, March 28, 2018, by China's Xinhua News Agency, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands in Beijing, China. - Sputnik International
As North Korean leader Kim Jong-un departs from Beijing after his meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping, Chinese and South Korean pundits ponder what the two leaders might have discussed and how it might affect the future of the region.


Cheong Seong-chang, head of the Department of Unification Strategy Studies at the Sejong Institute, told Sputnik that there was only one issue that Xi Jinping and Kim Jong-un could have discussed under the current circumstances – the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

"If the North Koreans did not espouse their readiness for denuclearization, China’s Chairman Xi Jinping would’ve had no reason to agree to the summit. Most likely the DPRK presented its official stance on denuclearization. Also, China and North Korea cannot afford to alienate each other no matter how much they squabble. So even when Pyongyang subjects Beijing to criticism, the relations between the two countries never crosses a certain line," he said.

READ MORE: Pentagon Expects Need for More Nuke Sniffers After US-North Korea Summit

Cheong added that the "most optimistic scenario" following Kim’s visit to Beijing would’ve been an inter-Korean summit, followed by a US-North Korean summit and six-party talks involving Russia and Japan.

"Then a peace system for the entire East Asia could be developed, based on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," he declared.

Planning and Coordination

Tong Zhao, a fellow at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing, noted, however, that he remains skeptical how about how substantive the discussion between North Korean and Chinese leaders on the nuclear issue had been.

Demonstrators dressed as North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (R) and US President Donald Trump (L) embrace during a peace rally in Seoul on November 5, 2017 - Sputnik International
Majority of US Citizens Support Planned Trump-Kim Summit - Poll
"The two countries may want to coordinate for the Trump-Kim summit, but I doubt Kim felt he had a close enough relationship to Xi that he could reveal all his cards to Xi," Tong Zhao said, adding that "a good DPRK-China relationship would provide an insurance for DPRK against possibly bad consequences in case the Trump-Kim summit failed."

"Kim's summit with Moon may yield results over improved North-South relations on political, aid, people-to-people exchange issues, but the nuclear issue would be the focus of the Kim-Trump summit. Kim would offer a political commitment to the ultimate goal of denuclearization and be open to discussing freezing its nuclear capabilities. It is hard to tell if Trump would be flexible enough to accept such concessions and move on," he remarked.

Tong Zhao also said that while the prospects of war in the Korean Peninsula are "becoming less likely," the US may still attempt to wage a "maximum pressure campaign" against North Korea if Washington deems Pyongyang’s "interim concessions" insufficient.

"That would lead to a new round of high tensions with increasing risk of war," he said.

READ MORE: Kim Jong-un Confirms Readiness to Meet With US President — Reports

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited Beijing on Tuesday, March 27, arriving onboard a special armored train amid heavy security precautions to meet with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

During a banquet held in the Chinese capital, Kim stated that it was his "solemn duty" to make Beijing his first overseas destination and invited Xi to make an official visit to Pyongyang "at a convenient time" – an invitation that "was accepted with pleasure," KCNA reports.

US President Donald Trump tweeted that he looks forward to his upcoming meeting with Kim Jong-un, adding, however, that "unfortunately, maximum sanctions and pressure must be maintained at all cost" in the meantime.

The views and opinions expressed by Cheong Seong-chang and Tong Zhao are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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