Chinese President Xi Jinping and American counterpart President Donald Trump spoke on the phone Wednesday, with reports out of Beijing stating that Xi stressed that his nation is “committed to peace” on the Korean peninsula.
The call comes as the birthday of Kim Il-sung, the founder of communist North Korea, approached. Pyongyang has often used the occasion to engage in rocket launches and other destabilizing activity meant to intimidate America and South Korea.
Xi and Trump’s conversation was also the first since Xi visited the United States last week, meeting Trump at his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago.
According to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency, during the phone call, “Xi said that China sticks to the target of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and that China is committed to peace and stability of the peninsula.” The president emphasized that Beijing is “ready to maintain communication and coordination with the United States” on the matter of North Korea, an indication that China will not allow its bond with fellow communist nation North Korea to jeopardize its standing on the global stage.
Xinhua added that Xi also mentioned the Syrian Civil War. The Chinese president reportedly told Trump that “any use of chemical weapons is unacceptable and that the path of political settlement should be followed.” China, a longtime Russia ally on the international stage, has not condemned Trump’s decision to order an attack on a Syrian military base in response to dictator Bashar al-Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians in a rebel-held town in northern Idlib – a change in strategy for Beijing.
Voice of America noted that, at press time, the White House has not released a report of the phone conversation. The Xinhua report does offer some insight into what President Trump said to Xi: “In Wednesday’s phone conversation, Trump said the meeting with Xi at Mar-a-Lago was a success. It is very important for the two presidents to maintain close communication, he added,” according to the Global Times.
Trump also reportedly expressed excitement at his scheduled visit to China later this year.
The conversation between the two world leaders follows a Tuesday brimming with Chinese government activity seemingly intended to distance Beijing from Pyongyang. China recently announced that it had deployed 150,000 troops to the North Korean border after the government rejected a coal shipment from Pyongyang to abide by United Nations sanctions. China also sent its top nuclear envoy, Wu Dawei, to South Korea to discuss cooperation in preventing North Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons. China tasked Wu with meeting the nation’s top presidential candidates, running in a special election following the impeachment of hardline President Park Geun-hye.
“I think even China is beginning to recognize that this presents a threat to even China’s interests. President Xi clearly understands, and I think agrees, that the situation has intensified and has reached a certain level of threat that action has to be taken,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday on CBS’s Face the Nation. White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, reiterated Tuesday that North Korea is a paramount concern of the Trump administration: “The last thing we want to see is a nuclear North Korea that threatens the coast of the United States or, for that matter, you know, any other country and any other set of human beings.”
Chinese state media on Wednesday appeared to project the sentiment that both the government and the Chinese people have been exhausted by the consistently belligerent behavior of dictator Kim Jong-un. “Presumably Beijing will react strongly to Pyongyang’s new nuclear actions. China will not remain indifferent to Pyongyang’s aggravating violation of the UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution,” a column in the Global Times speculated Wednesday, adding:
More and more Chinese support the view that the government should enhance sanctions over Pyongyang’s nuclear activities. If the North makes another provocative move this month, the Chinese society will be willing to see the UNSC adopt severe restrictive measures that have never been seen before, such as restricting oil imports to the North. Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program is intended for securing the regime, however, it is reaching a tipping point. Pyongyang hopes its gamble will work, but all signs point to the opposite direction.
The column concluded that “Pyongyang should avoid making mistakes at this time.”