North Korea commits to denuclearization, China says

Many analysts believe this still constitutes North Korea’s stance and remain deeply skeptical Kim is willing to give up the weapons his family has been developing for decades
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Chinese President Xi Jinping inspect honor guards, as he paid an unofficial visit to Beijing, China – Photo: KCNA via REUTERS
28/03/2018
11:27
Reuters
Mexico City
Ben Blanchard & Joyce Lee
-A +A

On Wednesday, China disclosed that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged his commitment to denuclearization and to meet U.S. officials after his meeting with President Xi Jinping, who promised China would uphold friendship with its isolated neighbor.

After two days of speculation, China and North Korea both confirmed that Kim had traveled to Beijing and met Xi during what China called an unofficial visit from Sunday to Wednesday.

The visit was Kim’s first known trip outside North Korea since he assumed power in 2011 and is believed by analysts to serve as preparation for upcoming summits with South Korea and the United States.

However, Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) made no mention of Kim’s pledge to denuclearize, or his anticipated meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump that is planned for some time in May.

China has traditionally been secretive North Korea’s closest ally but ties have been frayed by its pursuit of nuclear weapons and China’s backing of tough U.N. sanctions in response.

China’s Foreign Ministry cited Kim in a lengthy statement as telling Xi the situation on the Korean peninsula was starting to improve because North Korea had taken the initiative to ease tension and put forward proposals for talks.

“It is our consistent stand to be committed to denuclearization on the peninsula, in accordance with the will of late President Kim Il Sung and late General Secretary Kim Jong Il,” Kim Jong Un said, according to the ministry.

North Korea was willing to talk with the United States and hold a summit between the two countries, he said.

“The issue of denuclearization of the Korean peninsula can be resolved, if South Korea and the United States respond to our efforts with goodwill, create an atmosphere of peace and stability while taking progressive and synchronous measures for the realization of peace,” Kim said.

Kim Jong Un’s predecessors, grandfather Kim Il Sung and father Kim Jong Il, both promised not to pursue nuclear weapons but secretly maintained programs to develop them, culminating in the North’s first nuclear test in 2006 under Kim Jong Il.

The North had said in previous, failed talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear program it could consider giving up its arsenal if the United States removed its troops from South Korea and withdrew its so-called nuclear umbrella of deterrence from South Korea and Japan.

Many analysts and former negotiators believe this still constitutes North Korea’s stance and remain deeply skeptical Kim is willing to give up the weapons his family has been developing for decades.

China briefed Trump on Kim’s visit and the communication included a personal message from Xi to Trump, the White House said in a statement.

“The United States remains in close contact with our allies South Korea and Japan. We see this development as further evidence that our campaign of maximum pressure is creating the appropriate atmosphere for dialogue with North Korea,” it said.

Analysts said the meeting strengthened North Korea’s position ahead of any meeting with Trump by aligning Beijing and Pyongyang while reassuring China it was not being sidelined in any negotiations.

“It seems that North Korea is not ready to deal with the United States without support and help from its longtime ally China,” said Han Suk-hee, Professor of Chinese Studies at South Korea’s Yonsei University.

China had largely sat on the sidelines as North Korea improved relations with South Korea recently, raising worry in Beijing that it was no longer a central player in the North Korean issue, reinforced by Trump’s subsequent announcement of his proposed meeting with Kim Jong Un in May.

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