The Chinese Foreign Ministry applauded North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump for their willingness to meet, as announced Thursday night – an unprecedented encounter for both nations.
China is North Korea’s largest trading partner and, as a fellow totalitarian communist regime, its largest moral ally. President Trump has, nonetheless, successfully encouraged China to support U.N. sanctions on Pyongyang in response to repeated nuclear missile tests targeting South Korea and parts of America.
On Thursday, South Korean national security chief Chung Eui-yong announced during a visit to the White House that Kim Jong-un had told him, while on a visit to Pyongyang on Monday, to tell President Trump that he would like to meet in person. Trump accepted the invitation and the two will soon schedule a time and location to meet by May.
“We welcome the positive messages conveyed by the US and the DPRK on direct dialogues,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters on Friday, using an abbreviation for the full name of North Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “The Korean Peninsula nuclear issue is moving in a right direction towards its settlement. We fully commend and support the efforts made by all relevant parties to resolve this issue through dialogue and consultation.”
Geng encouraged both sides to “demonstrate political courage and make a political decision to expeditiously carry out all necessary and useful engagements, both bilateral and plurilateral, and do their best to restart dialogue and negotiation for the peaceful settlement of the nuclear issue.”
The spokesman also defended China’s role in the negotiations that led to the agreement for the two heads of state to meet, which has reportedly been none.
“The efforts made by China in this regard are there for all to see,” Geng insisted.
He noted that China “has been implementing the DPRK-related resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council in a comprehensive and strict manner and we have paid a huge price for that. In spite of this, China will one-hundred percent discharge its due international obligations.”
“We are heartened by the current momentum of amelioration on the Korean Peninsula,” he added.
Following the Foreign Ministry briefing, which occurred during early morning hours in Washington, local time, President Trump spoke with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on the phone, updating him on the news. According to Chinese state media, Xi told Trump he “hopes the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) will start dialogue as soon as possible and strive for positive results.”
“We hope that all relevant parties can make positive gestures and refrain from actions that prevent the situation on the Korean peninsula from calming down,” a Chinese CCTV broadcast quoted Xi as saying.
Striking a tone of concern that differed from official statements, the Global Times, a Chinese state propaganda outlet, urged Chinese people to “stay calm” in the face of such extraordinary events happening without China as their focal point.
“Avoid the mentality that China is being marginalized,” the newspaper warned, suggesting the United States could never replace China as North Korea’s main ally.
“China is incomparable with the U.S. The U.S. is far away from the Korean Peninsula and has a lot of room to maneuver. Besides, the U.S. is an ally of South Korea and maintains its ability to influence it,” the article continued. “China’s huge influence on North Korea has ceased. … It is a misconception that China still provides huge amounts of economic aid to North Korea.”
“If the Kim-Trump meeting will contribute to denuclearization and peace that China desires the most, China has no reason to be unhappy about it,” the Global Times concluded.
South Korean official Chung visited Pyongyang as part of a five-person delegation this week and has returned with numerous messages from Kim personally. Among them is Kim’s claim that his father, dictator Kim Jong-il, had said his “dying wish” was the denuclearization of the peninsula. The living Kim will also reportedly meet with South Korean leftist President Moon Jae-in next month, his first visit to South Korea and the first of a Kim family ruler since the communists tore the nation in half.
Washington has been unified in insisting that no progress will be made unless Kim follows up his conciliatory talk with action, and Trump himself insisted on Twitter that he would not ease sanctions on the country until significant changes occurred.