KT edit: Is North Korean leader Kim doing China's bidding?

China has long been the economic lifeline of Pyongyang and has used its influence on the hermit kingdom adeptly.

Published: Tue 8 Jan 2019, 7:00 PM

Last updated: Tue 8 Jan 2019, 9:09 PM

Whether the US president likes it or not, it is clear that the train to peace on the Korean Peninsula passes through Beijing. Or so it seems now. The North Korean leader is in China (again), on the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, as preparations for the second summit between the US president and North Korean leader get underway. This is the fourth meeting between Jinping and Kim in the last 12 months, and what's notable about the meetings is that they all took place right before Kim had to meet with foreign leaders, namely US president Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, to discuss ways on how to open doors for the North Korean economy.
Things are a little different this time though. In his 2018 New Year message the North Korean leader surprised the world by talking about possibilities of deeper cooperation between the two Korean nations. There was optimism in his speech and eventually North Korea sent a team to the Winter Olympics in Seoul. Kim also met with US President Donald Trump, which is a first of sorts. The fact that the summit hasn't yielded any concrete results is another matter of discussion. But this year's message was in contrast to the buoyancy exhibited before. In his 2019 message, Kim said that he might be 'compelled to explore a new path' to defend North Korea's sovereignty if the US 'seeks to force something upon us unilaterally. and sanctions remain in place.' This is why the latest meeting between Kim and the Chinese leader needs to be watched closely.
China has long been the economic lifeline of Pyongyang and has used its influence on the hermit kingdom adeptly. At a time when trade war with the US is hurting China, its leadership might be keen to use backroom diplomacy to its advantage. China insists that it backs peace talks between the US and North Korea, but at the same time it is also keen to have a seat on the table and is hoping that bilateral talks give way to multilateral talks. US President Donald Trump has said he's 'very happy' with the way things are going. But lack of any meaningful progress since the Singapore summit last year gives a feeling that the opportunity to engage with the North could be slipping away.

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