China's Views on the U.S.–North Korea Summit: Good News from Singapore?
Photo Credit: U.S. Department of State
Denuclearization and stability on the Korean peninsula and a temporary halt to nuclear and missile testing as well as US-led military maneuvers in the region, the so-called freeze for freeze, has been promoted by China for quite some time. By increasingly tightening enforcement of UN sanctions Beijing did play a significant role in increasing the pressure on Kim Jong-un to come to the negotiation table and seek a diplomatic solution. De-stabilization and the risk of military escalation are not in China’s interest. However, the Chinese leadership is also weary of reunification under the existing circumstances as this would eliminate North Korea’s buffer function against the U.S. military presence on the Korean peninsula.
The outcome of the initial round of talks between Kim and Trump – a vague declaration of long-term goals – is thus positive from Beijing’s perspective as it leaves plenty of space for the Chinese leadership to influence the proceedings and shape the outcome in accordance to its own economic and security interests along the way. With the sanctions regime declared to stay in place, China retains leverage and control over the situation. Trump alluded to the economic potential that could be unleashed in North Korea if the leadership would embrace a constructive approach and showed sincere commitment to de-nuclearizing. Limited opening up of North Korea would be beneficial for China’s connectivity plans in the Belt and Road context and other economic engagement with the North.
This piece was published by the VUB Korea Chair as part of a collection of expert views on the U.S.–North Korea Summit, read the full article here.