China continues to have influence over Korean Peninsula affairs

Xi Jinping and Kim Jong-un pictured in Dalian in northeastern China. Photo: Xinhua

During a post-summit press conference held on June 12 in Singapore, US President Donald Trump expressed his gratitude to China for its efforts in pressing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to the negotiating table, indicating that China is still capable of exerting great influence on the affairs of the Korean Peninsula.

China has never been absent from the preparations for the historic meeting between Trump and Kim, as reflected in Kim's two meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping in March and May respectively. These two meetings, where Xi reportedly likely gave security guarantees to North Korea, were described as a leverage the young North Korean leader could use in his negotiation with Trump. Moreover, Kim flew to Singapore on an Air China airplane.

The New York Times likened the Trump-Kim meeting to a new version of former US President Nixon's visit to Beijing in 1972, which is considered as the prelude to the normalization of the relationship between the United States and China.

Surprisingly, Trump left Singapore after the June 12 news briefing during which the US president summarized the positive results of his summit with Kim. Nevertheless, media attention to Singapore was again ignited by a South Korean report that China's leaders were leaving for Singapore.

In addition to the security guarantee, China would also provide economic assistance to North Korea as Kim has pledged to implement economic reforms after years of concentration on the nuclear program. China is a major trade partner of North Korea, and its imports of North Korean goods are an important revenue source of Pyongyang.

Beijing's intent to provide economic support to Pyongyang could also be seen from its foreign ministry's statement which said the United States should immediately lift the economic sanctions against North Korea, in response to Trump, who claimed after the meeting with Kim that Washington will not cancel the sanctions on North Korea unless it takes actual steps in denuclearization.

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