Vietnam and Singapore shortlisted for NK-US summit

Devin Lawrence
January 11, 2019

China has backed a second bilateral summit between President Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong-un and pledged to play a part in denuclearising the peninsula.

Kim spoke with Xi for about an hour Tuesday night, discussing ways to strengthen their ties and lay out strategy for a potential summit between Kim and Trump on curbing Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions, Yonhap reported, citing unidentified people familiar with the talks.

By inviting Kim to meet him in China before a summit with Trump, Xi may be sending a message to Washington that "Beijing still has leverage over Pyongyang", according to Lim.

South Korea's Ambassador to the USA says he is hopeful that a second meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will take place.

He went on to say that North Korea would be, "sticking to the stance of denuclearization and resolving the Korean Peninsula issue". "But we are using various channels including the embassy in Beijing to communicate with North Korea".

Trump is seeking a second summit with Kim to re-energize talks that have made little headway since their first meeting in June, saying Sunday a date would be announced "in the not-too-distant future". "If he wants to shift his focus to the development of the economy, he needs China's cooperation", said Lu Chao, a North Korea expert at China's Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences.

China apparently prepared a grand banquet for Kim, whose 35th birthday was on Tuesday.

China, which wouldn't want to be left out in the cold in any settlement, has worked to improve relations with its neighbour, which deteriorated after Beijing backed United Nations sanctions against North Korea.

Kim visited a pharmaceutical plant that makes traditional Chinese medicine on Wednesday and met Xi again for lunch before heading home.

Kim's visit overlapped with a U.S. delegation led by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, which held talks in Beijing since Monday amid a 90-day truce in the U.S.

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Progress has been slow ever since as the North wants sanctions relief, while the USA remains firm that sanctions will remain in place until the North completely gives up its nuclear weapons program.

Shi Yinhong, an global relations professor at Renmin University in Beijing, said Kim's trip would have no direct influence on the progress of trade talks.

A second Kim-Trump meeting is expected soon, and the North Korean and Chinese leaders had far deeper security discussions this time in Beijing than in any of their talks a year ago, pointed out Lim Eul-chul, professor of North Korean studies at Kyungnam University.

While Kim was in China, Xi's government was in talks with a visiting USA delegation over a trade war that has been extracting a financial cost on the world's two biggest economies.

But he also urged the US President to consider issuing a formal declaration which would officially end the 1950-53 Korean War, which he suggested would encourage Kim to scrap its nuclear weapons.

Lu continued, "China supports the two sides in continuing with their dialogue and striving for positive outcomes".

The North Korean leader is keen to achieve sanctions relief, but he seems to know Xi may be better able to grant that wish than Trump.

"The Sino-US trade negotiations are a matter between China and the US", he said.

But Hua said Kim's visit would have a "limited" effect on the trade negotiations.

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department has refrained from commenting on the meeting, which comes as a second summit between Kim and Trump is materializing.

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