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North Korea

Revitalised friendship with China to serve North Korea well

Although there are questions as to how close both nations really are, good ties will help them work towards denuclearisation and lasting peace and stability

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 June, 2018, 5:08am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 June, 2018, 5:09am

China may not have been at the table when the leaders of North Korea and the United States had historic talks in Singapore on June 12, but it has a crucial role in ensuring that what has been achieved can be built upon. The North’s Kim Jong-un highlighted that this week by meeting President Xi Jinping for the third time in less than three months.

After the leaders and their wives and aides met in Beijing, he referred to the countries as “like family”, indicating how dramatically the nature of the relationship has changed since the latest push for peace on the Korean peninsula began in March.

Although there are questions as to how close the sides have become, of one matter there can be no doubt – the goals of denuclearisation and lasting peace and stability rely on good ties and being able to work closely together.

There is every sign of a sturdy relationship. Kim now refers to Xi as “comrade”, while the Chinese leader speaks of ties having entered a new stage of development. China is North Korea’s closest ally, but ties cooled after Kim took power in 2011 and ramped up testing of nuclear weapons and missiles.

The thaw began after a leadership summit of the two Koreas in March and Beijing has given full backing to Pyongyang’s efforts to make peace with Seoul and Washington.

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No nation is better placed than China to help move the process forward. Xi’s friendship with Kim and US President Donald Trump enables insight and the ability to mediate. China has also patched up differences with South Korea. Optimism that there is at last a chance for stability in the region has spurred governments to make an effort to cooperate.

For North Korea, that means ending weapons testing, being resolute about the denuclearisation process it has agreed to, and turning its focus to economic growth and development. China has an integral role through involvement in 90 per cent of North Korean trade and, during his latest trip, Kim visited a rail traffic control complex and an agriculture technology park.

But the easing and removal of international sanctions against Pyongyang depends on the progress of negotiations. The revitalised friendship with China is a solid starting point.