Kim Jong-un ends fourth visit to China with Beijing’s support, eyes on second Trump meeting

Foreign Affairs

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un continued to solidify his relationship with Xi Jinping in a three-day visit to Beijing from January 7 to 10. It was his fourth trip to China, as he met Xi for the first time in March 2018, and again both before and after the Singapore Summit with Donald Trump.

  • The meeting had a “cordial and friendly atmosphere,” Chinese state media Xinhua said, indicating that China continues its re-embrace of the North following Beijing’s ended participation in the “maximum pressure” campaign after the Singapore Summit.
  • Xi has still not traveled to Pyongyang, but North Korean state media KNCA, at least, is reporting that “Xi accepted the offer [to visit Pyongyang] with pleasure and informed Kim of the plan,” the SCMP notes.
  • A second summit between Kim and Trump is also widely expected, and the South Korean president Moon Jae-in said he believes “a second North Korea-U.S. summit has come close,” the New York Times reports (porous paywall).
  • Unsurprisingly, “talks have…stalled over how to implement the Singapore deal. Washington wants North Korea to declare and start dismantling its nuclear facilities and weapons, while the North has demanded that the United States first build trust with corresponding measures, starting with the easing of sanctions.” This is a direct result of Trump not insisting on preconditions to negotiation, or clear and verifiable language defining “denuclearization” in the agreement.
  • If Trump meets Kim again without preconditions on denuclearization, North Korea “will come to the conclusion that the U.S. has acknowledged that North Korea is a nuclear state.” That is the view of Paul Haenle of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who worked on North Korea negotiations in the Bush administration, as expressed on the Sinica Podcast last September.