This time, the visit to Beijing was announced (in Chinese) by Chinese state media while it happened — the visit was reported to last from June 19 to June 20, according to reports posted around 10am on the 19th, Beijing time. Because past practice was for Beijing to keep meetings with North Korean officials under wraps until they were completed, this led many foreign journalists such as NPR’s Anthony Kuhn to suspect that China is “feeling a bit more secure these days” with its North Korean relations.
Sanctions relief goes hand in hand with that sense of security, as NK News reports that “multiple DPRK-linked ships [have been] arriving at ports in China built to handle bulk commodities like iron and coal, goods sanctioned under UN measures.”
- Kim has transformed into a “very good diplomat,” Andrei Lankov, a Russian expert on North Korea, tells the New York Times (paywall). As he seeks further sanctions relief, “He wants to further disrupt the united China-U.S. front, which somewhat surprisingly emerged last year, but now is in critical condition due to the trade war.”
- China has “significant concerns” that part of that new diplomatic activity may be a direct dialogue with the U.S. that weakens China’s sway over its neighbor, former CIA analyst Chris Johnson told the South China Morning Post.
- “China would like Mr. Kim to be a little less cooperative with the United States — enough so that Mr. Trump might ease up on the tariffs, in the interest of keeping China in his corner where Pyongyang is concerned,” the New York Times writes.
- But overall, China is very satisfied with the course of North Korean diplomacy, as Quartz reports, because Trump very easily agreed to a major concession that China has sought for years: An indefinite freeze on American military exercises with South Korea.