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China's Role in the Upcoming Trump-Kim Show

January 28, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Earlier this month, North Korean spy chief Kim Yong-chol visited
Washington to confirm the second summit between Supreme Leader Kim
Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump, likely next month. Kim has
held three meetings with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in,
and another one, in Seoul, is expected soon. China’s
President Xi Jinping is in the lead—for now,
anyway—with four meetings with Kim. Vladimir Putin and Shinzo
Abe are waiting for their first.

These numbers matter. Beijing’s advantage likely is by
North Korean design. Kim took over in the aftermath of his
father’s death in December 2011, but for six years Xi kept
the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s new leader
at arm’s length. There were no meetings, no invitations, even
to the well-attended 2015 anniversary commemoration of the end of
World War II. In contrast, South Korean President Park Geun-hye
enjoyed a place of honor alongside Xi.

The U.S. should encourage
continued bilateral cooperation and seek support for a specific
denuclearization plan.

The relationship between the DPRK and the People’s
Republic of China has long been difficult at best. Since 1950, when
Beijing’s intervention saved Kim Il-sung from annihilation by
American-led forces in the Korean War, China has commonly referred
to their connection as “lips-to-teeth” (implying that
the two regimes are extraordinarily close). However, Kim showed no
gratitude for the intervention, claiming victory for himself and
eliminating the PRC’s allies within the North Korean
leadership. He also began the country’s nuclear program,
which would protect his nation’s independence from its
“friends” as well as enemies.

Although Kim’s son and successor, Kim Jong-il, visited
China often, he ostentatiously refused to take its advice on
economic reform. He also continued to pursue nuclear weapons,
despite China’s desire for a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.
His son and successor, Kim Jong-un, accelerated nuclear and missile
testing. Two years into the younger Kim’s reign, he executed
his uncle, who was the regime’s chief interlocutor with
Beijing and was accused of putting the interests of another,
unnamed nation before that of his own. When I visited the North in
mid-2017, I was told of the Kim government’s determination to
be economically independent of “any nation.” There was
no doubt who they meant.

China long returned the barely suppressed hostility. But the
government wants neither collapse nor South Korea-dominated
reunification, which would leave U.S. troops along the Yalu.
Rather, Beijing desires a more pliant and responsible ally.

Because of the two nations’ ideological connection,
bilateral relations are handled through the Chinese Communist
Party’s international department, though that link was
strained by the CCP’s departure from its revolutionary
beginnings. The People’s Liberation Army also supports the
relationship, though less firmly than in the past, both …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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