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North Korea

China ‘supports North Korean shift from nuclear to economy’

Foreign Minister Wang Yi backs plans announced by Kim Jong-un as China expresses wish for cooperation, despite its support of UN sanctions

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 May, 2018, 1:39pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 May, 2018, 2:10pm

Beijing will support North Korea’s efforts to rebuild its economy, China’s foreign minister has said as the North pledged to suspend nuclear testing and prioritise economic growth.

Wang Yi said in his meeting with North Korean counterpart Ri Yong-ho that the two allies would strengthen strategic communications and China would “continue to play a due and positive role in the political process for political settlement of the peninsula issues”, a statement by the Chinese foreign ministry said.

On the first day of his two-day visit to Pyongyang on Wednesday, Wang reaffirmed the pledge to deepen traditional relations between the neighbours, made by President Xi Jinping and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during Kim’s visit to Beijing in March. 

“Traditional friendship between China and North Korea is the mutual good fortune of the two sides, and it is a strategic choice to inherit and develop the traditional friendly relations,” Wang was quoted as saying.

China says it ‘will play a role’ in Korean peninsula peace as Wang Yi visits Pyongyang

“China would work together with North Korea … to enhance communications and coordination between the political and diplomatic departments of the two sides, and push forward practical cooperation on economy and trade.”

Ri told Wang that Kim values the traditional friendship with China, and that North Korea would like to keep close communication with China on denuclearisation and the peace process on the peninsula, according to the statement by the Chinese foreign ministry. 

The visit by Wang has come at a time when Beijing and Pyongyang have been working to repair the relations that were strained by Kim’s repeated nuclear tests and Beijing’s support for a series of stringent UN sanctions.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have quickly eased since the beginning of the year, when Kim proposed immediate dialogue with South Korea, and later a meeting with US President Donald Trump.

Days before his historic summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in last Friday, Kim announced he would suspend North Korea’s nuclear programme and focus its resources on rebuilding its economy, although many observers remained sceptical. 

Why Korean denuclearisation hangs on trust between North Korea and US

In his meeting with Ri, Wang commended the inter-Korean summit and expressed his hope for “substantial progress” in the landmark meeting between Kim and Trump, which is likely to take place within weeks.

Lu Chao, a Korean affairs expert at Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, said that China’s support of economic development in North Korea was in response to Kim’s pledge to give up nuclear weapons and shift to economic development. 

“This is not contradicting the UN sanctions, because the support, as well as the recent improvement in the bilateral relations between China and North Korea, only came on condition that North Korea agrees to give up its nuclear weapon programme and move to develop its economy,” Lu said. 

“So far, the bans remain effective and China would follow the sanctions.”