Warmth returns between China and North Korea

01.07.2019

President Xi Jin Ping visited Pyongyang on 20-21 June 2019. This high-level visit carries an extraordinary significance, which took place after a very long break of almost 14 years. North Korea (NK) and China were the closest allies and termed them “blood” relations. China fought the Korean War in 1950-53 from the North Korean side, where millions of Chinese volunteer’s soldiers were sent to North Korea. China has sacrificed precious lives of approximately 400,000 soldiers and events more than these numbers as seriously injured.

The most important is the 1961 Sino-North Korean (NK) Mutual Aid and Cooperation Friendship Treaty promises Chinese military intervention if the country is “subjected to an armed attack by any state or states”. North Korea has land contact only with China, as the other country having a common border in South Korea, while the rest is Sea. North Korea was heavily dependent on China, while, China was protected by North Korea as a buffer state. 

However, the ties between China and North Korea suffered when China normalized its relations with South Korea and even further cooled down in 2011 when China sided UN Sanction on North Korea due to nuclear issues. However, warmth is very much visible during the last two years, where President Kim has been shuttling between Pyongyang and Beijing several times. Especially before meeting with President Trump, his close consultations with China are of high importance. 

President Xi’s visit is a first high-level visit by any high-level Chinese leader since 2005. This visit is under a very tense geopolitical environment. Both nations are facing severe challenges, may be different in nature but from the same source. China is facing a Trade war with the US and strong opposition to its mega initiative BRI. China is facing “Contain China” threats and resistance in its economic development by the US.  While North Korea is facing a direct threat from the US on its nuclear program and facing American led UN severe sanctions.

There exists a compulsion to both countries to strengthen their relations with the evolving geopolitics. It is natural both can support each other to a big extent and come out of the crisis. A joint strategy and harmony to face challenges are rational for future cooperation.

North Korea, was left with no option except to develop its own nuclear weapons as a deterrence, as 28,500 well trained American troops were stationed in South Korea (SK), equipped with the latest weapons and engaged in joint military exercises frequently, directly threatening North Korea (NK). During the course of strengthening its defense needs, all other fronts were compromised, especially, the national economy suffered a lot. Today, North Korea is one of the poorest countries and its public is facing severe economic crisis. China supports Korean Economic developments and supports a new strategic line of economic development and improving people's livelihoods, raising socialist construction in the country to a new high tide. China has its own experience in economic development and can share its experience with NK.

President Kim realized the seriousness of the economic situation and is very much willing to improve its ailing economy. His nuclear talks with President Trump are aimed to remove sanctions and an economic package to pull the nation out of the economic crisis. But, it seems, the US is interested only unilaterally cape the North Korean nuclear program. I think, if President Trump is serious, he should show more flexibility and also genuinely address the NK concerns. I can fore-see NK’s seriousness and willingness. The world may not miss this opportunity and must take it seriously and try its best to resolve genuine concerns. Peace is desired, peace is achievable if a pragmatic approach is followed in negotiations. Failure of dialogue in Singapore and in Vietnam is a lesson that the 3rd round must be availed for its objectives. President Kim has emerged a different leader as compared to his elders, during the last 15 months, he met President Xi and President. Trump, and several times with South Korea’s president, whom he hosted in Pyongyang last year, as well as the leaders of Singapore, Vietnam and, most recently, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

Traditionally China supports dialogue and sincerely wish the success of dialogue. China has been pushing for an incremental disarmament process on the Korean peninsula and a resumption of the six-nation talks it had hosted before they broke down 10 years ago. The current visit to Pyongyang is a very positive move and brings two countries even closer. This may be utilized positively for dialogue with President Trump. President Xi just recently met President Putin and going to meet President Trump on weekend in the G-20 meeting to be held in Japan. Definitely, the NK issue must be discussed with world leaders. President Xi can be proved as the best mediator.

China and NK have agreed to work closely, strengthen the traditional friendship and maintain the spirit of elder generation leadership of two states. Signaled for “political Resolution of Nuclear Issue” and “Strategic Path” for reforms and economic developments. Both leaders discussed a wide range of issues and set the course of future relations. The Warmth of China-North Korea will be more visible in the days to come and will contribute to the “Peace, Stability and Prosperity” of the region as well as globally.