China will link easing or removing sanctions on North Korea with progress in denuclearization, a Chinese government official said Wednesday, as the North’s leader Kim Jong-un made another visit to Beijing this week.
In their talks Tuesday, Kim and President Xi Jinping focused on improving bilateral relations and ridding the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons, the official told a group of South Korean journalists on the condition of anonymity.
“An improvement in the China-North Korea relationship will not only help persuade North Korea but also lead the security conditions on the Korean Peninsula into a better direction,” he said.
He reaffirmed that Beijing will continue to abide by the U.N. Security Council sanctions on Pyongyang, which have halved two-way trade in recent years. There’s no investment by China in the neighboring country, he said.
It’s true that Chinese firms are holding out expectations for the resumption of businesses in the North amid the peace mood, but the government’s position remains unchanged, that there should be progress in the denuclearization process before reconsidering sanctions on Pyongyang, he said.
The punitive measures are attributable to the North’s nuclear and missile programs and are not directly connected with Beijing-Pyongyang relations, he pointed out.
On the now-suspended six-party nuclear dialogue, the official claimed it’s still an effective platform.
“Historically, the six-way talks played a bridging role between North Korea and the United States for negotiations,” he said.
Furthermore, he added, South Korea, Japan and Russia need to take part in the broader initiative to establish peace and stability in the region.
He said South Korea and China should return their bilateral ties back to before the deployment of the advanced U.S. missile defense system called THAAD in Korea.
He described it as a problem that hurts the emotions of Chinese people and causes an “internal wound” in Seoul-Beijing ties.
With regard to the timing of a trilateral summit session involving Japan, he said it may be held early next year given hectic diplomatic and political schedules, including elections in Japan, in the latter half of 2018.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met again with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday before he wrapped up a two-day visit to Beijing, China’s state media reported.
During his third visit to China in less than three months, Kim had two rounds of meetings with Xi to discuss Pyongyang-Beijing relations and the denuclearization issue.
“The two leaders had an in-depth conversation over tea in a cordial and friendly atmosphere” at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, Xinhua news agency said.
Citing Kim’s third visit, Xi said that the two sides “created a new history of high-level exchanges” and that such joint efforts will help bring peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula.
In response, Kim stressed that North Korea and China are “as close and friendly as family,” and expressed thanks to his counterpart for all the support.
He vowed to work with China “to upgrade bilateral ties to a new high, and play their due roles in safeguarding world and regional peace and stability,” according to the report.
The state media said the meeting was joined by their wives — Peng Liyuan and Ri Sol-ju.
Kim headed back to Pyongyang on his private jet, called Chammae-1, which took off from the Beijing international airport at around 5 p.m., according to informed sources.
Earlier in the day, the North’s Korean Central News Agency reported that, during their earlier meeting Tuesday, Xi expressed strong support for denuclearization efforts and promised to continue to play a “constructive role” in the process.
Kim’s latest trip to China came a week after Kim held a historic summit meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore, in which he affirmed his commitment to denuclearization in return for security guarantees and “new” bilateral relations between Pyongyang and Washington.
It was seen as an attempt to consolidate its ties with its longtime ally before launching high-level talks to discuss how to get rid of its nuclear weapons. Some say that it might be intended to enlist support for easing economic sanctions imposed on its regime.
Xinhua said that, on the second day of his trip, Kim visited a national agricultural technology innovation park under the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences as well as the Beijing rail traffic control center.
Earlier in the day, two VIP sedans and other vehicles presumed to be carrying Kim and his delegation were seen leaving the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse. A motorcade was later spotted entering the agricultural research center.
“It appears that Kim and his delegation visited the farming science center,” a source said. “This might reflect the North’s increasing interest in farming reform.”
It is said to be the same facility that a group of North Korean officials led by Pak Thae-song, vice chairman of its Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, had toured during their trip to China in May.
The North has placed more emphasis on bolstering its fragile economy in a departure from Kim’s signature “byongjin” policy of seeking both nuclear and economic development, which was adopted at the WPK’s meeting in March 2013.
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