Shangri-La Dialogue

US, North Korea ‘should build on Pyongyang’s denuclearisation progress’ in Trump-Kim talks

Chinese representative at Shangri-La Dialogue says North Korea has shown it is committed to the goal

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 June, 2018, 8:16pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 June, 2018, 11:11pm

Beijing’s representatives at a regional security summit on Sunday said Pyongyang had made progress on denuclearisation and called on US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to build on those efforts when they meet in Singapore next week.

Colonel Liu Lin, a member of the Chinese delegation at the Shangri-La Dialogue, said the international community should recognise that the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula could not be achieved in a single summit and that Pyongyang had made “some progress” towards the goal.

“The North definitely wouldn’t want to completely give up its entire nuclear programme immediately because it wants [the US and other countries] to give it something in return when there is progress on denuclearisation – and so far it has taken action to show it is committed to denuclearising,” Lin, from the Academy of Military Science, said on the sidelines of the forum in Singapore, referring to Pyongyang dismantling its Punggye-ri nuclear test site last month.

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Lin made the remarks after US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said at the same forum that North Korea would not get any sanctions relief until it had demonstrated “irreversible” steps towards denuclearisation. He said it was vital that the international community kept UN Security Council sanctions in place for now.

“North Korea will receive relief only when it shows verifiable and irreversible steps to denuclearisation,” he said during public remarks at a trilateral meeting with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts.

“In this moment we are steadfastly committed to strengthening even further our defence cooperation as the best means to preserving the peace.”

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Washington has demanded “complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement” of the North’s nuclear programme, while Pyongyang wants to see the removal of strategic US assets from the South or even the complete withdrawal of all US troops from the Korean peninsula.

The US, Japan and South Korea later issued a joint statement expressing their concerns for peace and stability on the peninsula and in the region and pledged their commitment to strengthen security cooperation. “The ministers agreed to remain united in support of the ongoing diplomatic efforts in the pursuit of the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula,” the statement said.

While South Korea has suggested a partial lifting of economic sanctions if the North makes “progress” on denuclearising, Japan has said pressure should be maintained to force Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons programme.

Zhou Bo, a senior colonel from the People’s Liberation Army who was also part of the Chinese delegation at the forum, said the joint statement was in line with Washington’s long-held position on denuclearisation.

But Cui Zhiying, director of the Korean Peninsula Research Centre at Tongji University in Shanghai, said it showed a more hawkish stance on the issue.

“The coming week will be the most vital period ahead of the Trump-Kim summit [on June 12] and any negativity from the hawks could add more uncertainties to this,” Cui said. “But it still seems likely these talks will go ahead now because the US hasn’t set any targets. The two leaders getting together at the negotiating table will be a good start for the process of denuclearisation.”

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Another Chinese military analyst said the international community should give Kim the “benefit of the doubt” because, he believed, the North Korean leader was trying to improve the isolated nation’s economic development.

“Kim does want to create a better life for the North Korean people because, unlike his father and grandfather, he has experienced the ‘good life’ in the West when he spent four years studying in Switzerland,” the analyst, who did not want to be identified, said.

“Although Beijing doesn’t have a decisive role in the negotiations and won’t say this, it is hoping that the US and the North will at least make a compromise or reach a consensus on their different views on ‘complete’ denuclearisation.”

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse