US and North Korea leaders

Chinese President’s recent visit to North Korea is under the global spotlight. The visit is important for many reasons. It is also the first Chinese state visit to Pyongyang in 14 years.

The Chinese President has come to North Korea to discuss economic cooperation and denuclearization talks with Kim. But the experts believe that the ulterior objectives of the visit amid the changing global scenario, suggest a motive beyond bilateral interests of the two nations.

Both states have an identical reason to come together in this crucial time: the US, that has brought the two neighboring countries closer, which remained estranged until 2018. Why the Chinese President took so long in returning the favor of the North Korean leader’s visit to China last year, is something that also attaches further significance to this visit. The analysts believe that the Chinese leader had been waiting for the “right time” to visit North Korea, and what could be a more crucial moment than this? Both states are in dispute with the US, but for different reasons. As China has been waging a trade war with the US over its tech giant, Huawei; North Korea has been in a row with the US over its nuclear weapon program.

Xi Jinping’s meeting will be the fifth meeting between him and Kim in as many as 15 months. More significantly, it is coming a week before Chinese leader’s meeting with the US President in the sidelines of G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan; and, two weeks after Xi’s meeting with the Russian counterpart in Moscow.

Both leaders will pay homage to the Chinese soldiers who fought for the host country during the Korean war, nearly 70 years ago. The Chinese President’s visit also follows the publication of his article in the front page of the North Korea’s official newspaper ‘Rodog Sinmun’, titled “new development of relations” between the two states, ideologically and geographically closed to each other.

North Korea had been more aggressive and irreconcilable until November 2017, when it successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile that could carry nukes, with a travelling capacity to reach as far as the US soil. Once, it achieved that capability, which many analysts believe was meant to be an end in itself and to be used as self-defence, the isolated state sought a rapprochement with the US. But after the disastrous meeting between Kim Jong-un and the US President at Hanoi in February this year, the prospects of positive talks ended in a stalemate.

However, Kim still expects, he said amidst the meeting with the Chinese leader, that there should be a positive response from the US on the stalled talks over the bargain of his nuclear program with the economic sanctions. The North Korean leader says that he is ready to loosen his half of the rope, in the hope that the ‘relevant party’ will also loosen its half end, to meet a compromising point.

The year 2019 marks the 70th anniversary of the formal diplomatic ties between North Korea and China. And perhaps, this was that strategic moment, the Chinese President had been waiting for. For, this meeting will enhance China’s regional role as the bargaining point with the US, with which it has been witnessing tense relations lately. Also, North Korea is a country where the “strategic concerns” of both the US and China overlap. The Chinese position has been that there should be denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, implying that the US and Chinese interests converge over North Korea.

As they say, there are no permanent friends or foes in international relations; the China-North Korea development perfectly describes this notion. The alignment of the two countries since last year has been further cemented by the hawkish US policies, which, one side has indulged with China over economic hegemony, while on the other it has shut the doors of diplomacy at North Korea.