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Will worsening China-US relations hinder denuclearization for DPRK?


Source: CGTN    Published: 2018-10-8

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo kicked off his fourth trip to the DPRK this year on Oct. 7. How would the US and the DPRK restart the deadlocked denuclearization negotiations? That is the main focus of international attention.

Both the US and the DPRK have made diplomatic efforts toward a new peaceful relationship since June when Trump shook hands with Kim in Singapore. The US suspended a number of military exercises with the ROK, while the DPRK started to dismantle a nuclear test site and missile facilities. The DPRK also scaled down its anniversary parade, with no ballistic missiles on display.

"Had a good trip to Pyongyang to meet with Chairman Kim. We continue to make progress on agreements made at Singapore Summit. Thanks for hosting me and my team," Pompeo tweeted immediately after his meeting with DPRK leader Kim Jong Un. It seems that he is very satisfied with the trip.

"He has all the reasons to be feeling nice because Mr. Kim treated him to a two-hour meeting followed by a 90-minute lunch," said Wang Chong, a senior research fellow of the Charhar Institute.

Of course, food is of little significance to Mr. Pompeo. According to Mr. Wang, three keywords could explain Pompeo's “good” trip to Pyongyang.

The first keyword for his trip to the DPRK is "productive." Pompeo said that he thought he had a productive conversation with Kim. In the diplomatic circle, productive usually means something solid has been achieved.

Let's see what he has gained in a one-day visit. Right before his visit, Kim invited inspectors to visit the Punggye-ri nuclear test site to confirm that it has been irreversibly dismantled. It is a step forward after months of standstill.

The second keyword is "summit." US President Donald Trump had quite an astonishing and successful summit with Kim in June. Both agreed on an ideal goal of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, but a detailed and executable plan to reach the goal was not yet hammered out. Thus, another summit is needed. Following a historic visit to Pyongyang by ROK President Moon Jae-in, Pompeo refined options for the location and date of that next summit.

The third keyword is "unified." As Pompeo said, the US will have a unified attitude toward the DPRK with its allies. That is why he visited Japan first. He even promised Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that he would raise the issue of abductions as well as nuclear and missile concerns on behalf of Japan when he meets with DPRK leader Kim Jong Un.

For sure, the trip is quite successful. As Pompeo said, it is another step forward, a good outcome for all.

Nevertheless, it's a good start. But the peaceful settlement of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula still has a long way to go due to unsolved disagreements on the issue of security between the DPRK and the US.

"It is about the American military presence in the Korean Peninsula, it is also about America's Asian strategy. It takes time for the US. Even though they have a deal, the DPRK side does not trust the US. As we know, even the international laws can't limit the US, so who can expect that the DPRK would get the fundamental guarantee of security?" said Wang Yiwei, director of the Center for European Studies at Renmin University of China.

Before the mid-term elections, Mr. Trump wants to make sure that the DPRK issue would be his biggest diplomatic achievement; but for the DPRK, a security guarantee is their primary concern. If Kim Jong Un believes that DPRK's security is not guaranteed, it will be difficult for both sides to make substantial progress on the issue.

Besides, China also plays a very important role regarding the Korean Peninsula issue, actively promoting the establishment of a denuclearization and peace mechanism on the peninsula. Pompeo starts his China trip after his visits to Japan, DPRK and ROK on Oct. 8. The denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the main content of Pompeo's visit.

Although both sides agreed that the denuclearization issue needs to be addressed in joint efforts, China-US relations have witnessed a worrying development trend recently, due to the unilateral increase in tariffs imposed by the United States, and the US Vice President's hostile speech on China.

At the joint appearance with Pompeo after his briefing, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke about the grievances between the two countries in a disappointed tone, adding that actions from the US side have “cast a shadow on China-US relations,” to which Pompeo replied that “we have a fundamental disagreement."

But will the worsening relationship hamper the denuclearization process? Before he kicked off his trip to Pyongyang, Pompeo reassured that in spite of the different views they hold on trade and the like, China's importance in the denuclearization process cannot be overlooked.

“We know that China is going to be part of the solution, that'll ultimately be when we get to the end,” he said. “If we do this well, we will have signed a peace treaty that ends the armistice, that China will be a part of.”

Wang Yiwei is a senior fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.

Key Words: China   US   DPRK   Wang Yiwei  

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