The US envoy for North Korea is visiting Beijing this week, a sign Washington seeks China’s help in reviving nuclear disarmament negotiations after the summit meeting in Vietnam between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un collapsed last month.
Stephen Biegun, the US special representative for North Korea, is in Beijing “to continue US-China coordination on policies related to North Korea”, the US embassy confirmed in an email to the South China Morning Post.
No details about the arrangements of Biegun’s meetings were disclosed. Biegun, who was appointed to the role in August, visited Beijing in September and January, when he met Kong Xuanyou, China’s special representative for Korean peninsula affairs.
Biegun arrived in Beijing on Sunday, less than two days after Trump overruled a decision by the US Treasury Department to impose new sanctions on North Korea.
“It was announced today by the US Treasury that additional large scale Sanctions would be added to those already existing Sanctions on North Korea,” Trump posted on Twitter on Friday. “I have today ordered the withdrawal of those additional Sanctions!”
It was announced today by the U.S. Treasury that additional large scale Sanctions would be added to those already existing Sanctions on North Korea. I have today ordered the withdrawal of those additional Sanctions!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 22, 2019
Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, later explained the move by saying, “President Trump likes Chairman Kim and he doesn’t think these sanctions will be necessary”.
Observers in China said that Biegun’s latest visit to Beijing suggested Washington was shifting its policy and now looking for Beijing to play a bigger role in breaking the deadlock with Pyongyang.
The US has been reluctant to involve China, concerned that Beijing might gain leverage to apply in its own trade negotiations with Washington.
“It is clear that the Trump administration still seeks to negotiate with North Korea over dismantling its nuclear weapons programme,” said Cheng Xiaohe, a Korean affairs expert with Renmin University in Beijing.
“But now it is possible that they would ask China to play a more active role in the talks.
“China’s role to facilitate the negotiation would be strengthened.”
Kim has met Chinese President Xi Jinping four times in the past year, the last time in Beijing in January before the summit with Trump.
Beijing – which has always regarded stability on the Korean peninsula as a top priority – has urged the two sides to push forward a political solution and achieve denuclearisation on the peninsula.
The US has insisted it is eager to resume talks with Pyongyang after the breakdown of the Hanoi summit, but there have been increasing fears that the relations between the two countries, which have enjoyed a year of thawing, may again turn frosty.
Pyongyang threatened earlier this month to cut off talks with the US completely, with Choe Son-hui, North Korea’s foreign vice-minister, saying that Pyongyang would reconsider its decision to stop missile and nuclear tests unless Washington made concessions.
This article US envoy to North Korea arrives in Beijing to discuss ‘coordination on policies’ first appeared on South China Morning Post