China says it ‘will play a role’ in Korean peninsula peace as Wang Yi visits Pyongyang
Chinese foreign minister expected to seek clarification on proposed summits
China on Wednesday said it intended to play a role in the Korean peninsula peace process, as Foreign Minister Wang Yi began a visit to Pyongyang looking to reinforce Beijing’s influence over its nuclear-armed neighbour.
Wang met his North Korean counterpart Ri Yong-ho for talks after landing in Pyongyang, after he was greeted by the North’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ri Kil-song.
The Pyongyang trip was announced on Monday and came just days after Friday’s historic summit, when North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed to work to officially end the 1950-53 Korean war and for the “complete denuclearisation” of the peninsula”, though no specific plans were mentioned.
They also pledged to push forward peace talks between the two Koreas and the US, or in a four-way negotiation with Beijing involved.
Wang’s visit, at the invitation of Ri, came as the two allies are trying to repair ties that have deteriorated over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme and Beijing’s backing of UN sanctions against its northern neighbour. It follows Kim’s visit to Beijing in late March.
But there has been growing speculation over whether Beijing – Pyongyang’s main ally and patron for more than seven decades – will be left out of the peace negotiations amid a fast-changing dynamic on the peninsula.
“China will play a role in establishing peace on the Korean peninsula,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a press conference in Beijing on Wednesday.
Cheng Xiaohe, a professor of international relations at Renmin University, said that as a major stakeholder in the region, Beijing would be seeking clarification on the proposed trilateral or quadrilateral talks raised during the inter-Korean summit since China was one of three signatories to the 1953 armistice, along with North Korea and the US.
The North Koreans would also brief Wang on the Kim-Moon summit, Cheng said, as well as its position on the upcoming meeting between Kim and US President Donald Trump that is expected to take place in three or four weeks.
“China needs to understand what North Korea wants from the summit with the US, and they will also share their views as well as advice from the Chinese side,” Cheng said.
Before the historic summit, Moon said that the North was ready to give up its nuclear weapons if the safety of Kim’s regime was guaranteed.
“What exactly regime safety means to North Korea, as it is extremely important to the North, and also economic assistance and financial compensation – these are the issues Beijing needs to understand,” Cheng said.
The leaders of China, South Korea and Japan will gather in Tokyo next week for a long-delayed trilateral summit, and Cheng expected the North’s denuclearisation and a peace settlement for the peninsula to be on the agenda there.
South Korea has said Moon would brief Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the results of Friday’s summit, and seek their cooperation.