China and North Korea show united front as US offers talks

·4-min read

China and North Korea have made a public show of solidarity, calling for regional stability amid signs from Washington that it is willing to hold talks with Pyongyang.

In a rare opinion piece in Rodong Sinmun, the official mouthpiece of the Workers’ Party of Korea, China’s ambassador to North Korea Li Jinjun said the two sides should deepen cooperation in areas such as education, culture, health and agriculture, and expand communication for the “new starting point” in their “enduring and unbreakable” friendship.

“China and North Korea are both countries that have emerged from suffering, and know the value of peace,” Li wrote in the piece on Monday, the second anniversary of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to North Korea.

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“We are willing to work with the North Korean side to strengthen communication and coordination, and will work together to achieve long-term peace and stability in the region, making a positive contribution to regional peace and stability, development and prosperity.”

North Korea’s top envoy to Beijing Ri Ryong-nam wrote a similar piece in the Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily on Monday, stressing that the friendship and solidarity between the people of North Korea and China would “never fade and will never change”.

“With the deep concern from the leaders of the two countries’ ruling parties, friendly relations between North Korea and China in political, economic, military, cultural and other areas will continue to develop deeply, making a great contribution to the safety and stability of the Korean peninsula.”

The united front comes after Pyongyang appeared to break its silence on its impasse with Washington.

At a key party meeting last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said the country should prepare for “both dialogue and confrontation” but especially confrontation with US President Joe Biden’s administration.

Sung Kim, the US’ special representative for North Korea, said on Monday during a five-day visit to Seoul that the US was willing to meet North Korea “anywhere, anytime, without preconditions” for dialogue.

During talks with South Korea and Japan to discuss working towards the complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, Sung Kim urged North Korea to “respond positively to our outreach” and urged others to follow the US in continuing to enforce United Nations Security Council sanctions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme.

North Korea must prepare for ‘dialogue and confrontation’ with US, Kim Jong-un says

China, North Korea’s biggest ally, accounts for about 90 per cent of trade with North Korea. It has called on the Security Council to ease sanctions on Pyongyang and to move towards a political settlement of the Korean peninsula issue.

In late May, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met Ri in Beijing, saying China wanted to maintain high-level strategic communications with North Korea to work towards “making positive contributions to regional peace and stability”.

In the phone call to China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi on June 11, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he and Yang discussed the US’ policy review on North Korea and stressed the need for the US and China to work together for the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

Zhao Tong, a senior fellow for the nuclear policy programme at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre for Global Policy, said the commentaries were mainly to mark important political anniversaries between China and North Korea, and were not necessarily related to Sung Kim’s visit to Seoul.

“The first is the two-year anniversary of Xi’s visit to North Korea, the second is that the China-North Korea friendship treaty will be renewed this year as it is renewed once every 20 years, and the third is the Chinese Communist Party’s centenary, which will also further develop relationships with the Workers’ Party of Korea,” he said.

Zhao said that while the US and North Korea might sound each other out diplomatically, when it came to resuming talks their positions remained very far apart and it would be difficult to make any progress.

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