Is Kim Jong-Un’s First Foreign Outing Since 2011 Significant?
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Kim Jong-un recently went to Beijing to meet President Xi Jinping. The trip, reportedly Kim’s first since taking power, suggests to the world that relations between North Korea and China are healthy. Will this give Kim more clout when meeting South Korean president Moon Jae-in, and then the U.S. president, in the coming weeks?
Previous relations between North Korea and China had been tense, as China—which supplies the lion’s share of North Korea’s foods and fuels—began supporting U.S. sanctions to deal with Kim’s nuclear threat. Xi sent a top official to North Korea last year who failed to score a meeting with Kim. Kim even had his uncle, North Korea’s key link to China, executed.
Now, Kim is expressing a commitment to denuclearization, Chinese news source Xinhua has reported—if other countries take “progressive and synchronous measures” including an end to U.S. nuclear backing for South Korea. North Korea and China share an interest in taking the U.S. military presence out of South Korea.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in is the politician who first engaged Kim in discussions about a nuclear freeze, and who first offered to meet with Kim. This provided a way for the U.S. to consider following suit.
Both Moon and Trump have insisted that sanctions remain at this time.
Same Old Ploy?
Several months ago, President Trump threatened fire and fury on North Korea. The U.S. wants a full end to the country’s nuclear designs. Will Kim really offer that? Or are we watching a ploy to ward off attacks, and position North Korea as a nuclear negotiator?
Trump stands to gain enormous credit from voters if North Korea denuclearizes. Yet a meeting with Kim has plenty of potential to backfire.
History (and the BBC) tells us to proceed with eyes wide open. During the presidency of Roh Moo-hyun, the current South Korean president Moon, then chief of staff, met Kim’s father for talks. North Korea cut them short with a satellite launch.
And now, North Korea is firing up a nuclear reactor, reports the New York Times.
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