On the eve of his trip, the Chinese president pens an article published by a North Korean paper. In it, he says China is ready to play a greater role in negotiations relating to Korean Peninsula issues. For some analysts, he wants to exert influence on the nuclear issue as leverage in trade negotiations with the US.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – On the eve of his state visit to North Korea, Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed Wednesday to open a new chapter in Sin-North Korean relations.
In a rare contribution to the Rodong Sinmun, North Korea's main newspaper, Xi said that he would play a greater role in helping make progress in negotiations on Korean Peninsula issues and addressing Pyongyang's "reasonable" demands through dialogue.
Xi will arrive in North Korea tomorrow for a two-day visit, the first by a Chinese head of state in 14 years Kim has visited China four times, but no Chinese president has visited Pyongyang since Hu Jintao was hosted by Kim Jong-il, the current leader's father, in 2005.
The trip will take place just before Xi and US President Donald Trump travel to Osaka (Japan) for the G 20 Summit (28-29 June).
"We will actively contribute to regional peace, stability, development and prosperity by strengthening communication and coordination with North Korea and other relevant parties to make progress in talks and negotiations on Korean Peninsula issues," Xi said.
Xi didn't elaborate on the reasonable issues of concern, but appears to mean that China supports a step-by-step and simultaneous denuclearisation approach that Pyongyang has demanded in its nuclear talks with Washington.
According to some analysts, his statements also imply that he wants to use his influence in the North Korean nuclear issue as leverage in trade negotiations with the US.
As evidence, observers point to the current deadlock in negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington over denuclearisation and US economic sanctions.
North Korea and the US have not held substantive talks since Trump and Kim ended their second summit last February without an agreement.
Some South Korean academics, including Nam Chang-hee of Inha University, note that North Korea’s role in Chinese foreign policy has changed
When Xi came to power in 2012, North Korea was increasingly becoming a liability for China. Pyongyang’s repeated provocations were destabilising the region, providing justification for US military presence in the peninsula and closer US trilateral cooperation with South Korea and Japan.
However, as Sino-US rivalry intensifies, Xi seems to have reconsidered the strategic value of its Communist ally. Proof of this is his renewed diplomacy, culminating in this week’s trip to Pyongyang.
According to some reports, Xi's visit to North Korea also has important humanitarian implications.
North Korea has been in a serious food emergency, exacerbated by a recent drought. In addition to political support, South Korean media are reporting that Xi will offer at least 100,00 tonnes of food.