Archive for ‘Pyongyang’


Xi Jinping’s state visit to North Korea aims for ‘new impetus’ in ties

  • Stalled denuclearisation talks also expected to be on the agenda when Chinese president meets Kim Jong-un this week
  • Analysts say Korean peninsula has become intense diplomatic battleground between Beijing and Washington
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (right) attends a welcome ceremony in Beijing with Chinese President Xi Jinping in January. Xi will begin a visit to Pyongyang on Thursday. Photo: AP
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (right) attends a welcome ceremony in Beijing with Chinese President Xi Jinping in January. Xi will begin a visit to Pyongyang on Thursday. Photo: AP
Xi Jinping’s upcoming trip to 
North Korea

will be a state visit – a higher status than the last trip to the hermit kingdom by a Chinese president, highlighting the close bilateral ties between Beijing and Pyongyang.

Xi’s two-day trip, which 
begins on Thursday

, is the first by a Chinese president to North Korea in 14 years and comes just a week before he is due to meet US President Donald Trump for talks on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Japan.

“Leaders of the two countries will review the development of the bilateral relationship and carry out an in-depth exchange of opinions on the development of Sino-North Korean relations in the new era, and chart the future course of development,” state news agency Xinhua reported on Tuesday.
Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao, went to North Korea in October 2005 on a three-day trip described as an “official goodwill” visit.
Speaking at a regular press briefing in Beijing on Tuesday, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Xi’s visit aimed to “inject new impetus” into relations in the year the two countries marked the 70th anniversary of establishing diplomatic ties, and to give stalled denuclearisation talks a much needed push.
“Regarding the progress on denuclearisation, as I said, the result of the Hanoi leaders’ meeting in February was indeed a little unexpected. But after that, everyone actually looks forward to the resumption of dialogue in a good direction,” Lu said, referring to the failed talks between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the Vietnamese capital four months ago.

Trump hinted at the possibility of another meeting with Kim after receiving what he called “a beautiful letter” from the North Korean leader last week. On Tuesday, South Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator, Lee Do-hoon, said the US had been in contact with the North.

Life in North Korea the ‘admiration and envy’ of others, state media says

Washington will also send US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun to South Korea next week, days after Xi’s visit to Pyongyang, to fully align its position on North Korea with its ally.

Meanwhile, Trump confirmed he would meet Xi for talks in Osaka next week, saying in a tweet on Tuesday they had “a very good telephone conversation” and would hold “an extended meeting” at the G20 summit, where they are

expected to try to cool tensions

over an almost year-long trade war.

Donald J. Trump


Had a very good telephone conversation with President Xi of China. We will be having an extended meeting next week at the G-20 in Japan. Our respective teams will begin talks prior to our meeting.

Analysts said the Korean peninsula had become an intense diplomatic battleground between Beijing and Washington.
Cha Du-hyeogn, a visiting research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul, said China and the US were competing for influence over the peninsula.
“The US and China are seeking a greater sphere of influence in the region. After the Singapore summit between Trump and Kim last year, the US and North Korea are the only key players on peninsula matters. China may want to restore its influence and become a major player,” Cha said.
“But China is less likely to have a so-called strategic competition with the US – that is to say, it won’t challenge the US-led sanctions regime and its goal in achieving North Korea’s denuclearisation. In fact, it is likely to persuade Kim to come to the negotiating table for complete denuclearisation.”
Chinese tourists flood North Korea as Beijing remains Pyongyang’s key ally

Pyongyang has demanded the lifting of sanctions imposed on the regime following its nuclear and missile tests, while Beijing has said the livelihoods of North Koreans should not be affected. But Washington insists full sanctions should remain in place.

The US has also voiced scepticism about Chinese compliance with the sanctions. At a security summit in Singapore earlier this month, US acting Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan – who on Wednesday stepped down from his role 

amid domestic abuse claims

– presented his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe with photographs and satellite images of North Korean ships transferring oil near China’s coast.

Analysts said Xi would seek to use the visit to boost China’s diplomatic leverage on the North Korean nuclear front, strengthening its hand in dealing with the US.
Exports from North Korea to China, which account for the bulk of its trade, plunged 87 per cent last year from 2017, and the country has faced other economic problems at a time when Kim has vowed to deliver on the economy.
A diplomatic source said China was expected to offer a large amount of humanitarian assistance, such as food and fertiliser, to North Korea, which could weaken the impact of sanctions.

China’s goal of denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula is unwavering and will not changeLu Chao, North Korean affairs expert at Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences

Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily on Tuesday said via its social media account that Xi would discuss economic and trade cooperation with Kim during the visit.

Quoting Zheng Jiyong, director of the Centre for Korean Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, the newspaper said Pyongyang had taken steps to reform its economy and introduced China’s industrial manufacturing blueprint.

In September, Beijing proposed building a rail link from the city of Dandong, in China’s northeastern Liaoning province, to Pyongyang and then on to Seoul and Busan in the South, as well as a new road between Dandong and Pyongyang through Sinuiju.

Lu Chao, a North Korean affairs expert at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, said large-scale economic cooperation between China and North Korea was unlikely because of the sanctions, but smaller moves were possible.

Chinese tourists flood North Korea as Beijing remains Pyongyang’s key ally

“For example, China may export daily necessities to North Korea. And if it’s needed, China is very likely to provide [food] assistance to North Korea,” Lu said. “I believe the UN sanctions on North Korea should change, because it has shown a more substantive approach to [achieving] denuclearisation.”

But analysts said Beijing remained firm on the need for Pyongyang to honour its pledges so that denuclearisation could be achieved.

“China’s goal of denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula is unwavering and will not change … China supports [North Korea] and the US continuing to hold talks,” Lu said.

Beijing also had an important part to play in the peace process, according to Boo Seung-chan, an adjunct professor at the Yonsei Institute for North Korean Studies in Seoul.

“China can have a positive role as a mediator to facilitate the peace process on the Korean peninsula,” Boo said.

Source: SCMP


Xi says China supports political settlement of Korean Peninsula issue


Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and Chinese president, holds talks with Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) and chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), in Pyongyang, DPRK, June 20, 2019. (Xinhua/Ju Peng)

PYONGYANG, June 20 (Xinhua) — Visiting Chinese top leader Xi Jinping on Thursday reaffirmed China’s support for efforts to push forward the political settlement process on the Korean Peninsula issue and build up conditions for its resolution.

Xi, general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and Chinese president, made the remarks in talks with Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea and chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Xi spoke highly of the DPRK’s efforts to safeguard peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and promote the denuclearization of the peninsula.

The situation of the Korean Peninsula concerns regional peace and stability, Xi pointed out, noting that a bright prospect of resolving the issue through dialogue has appeared over the past year, which has gained recognition and raised expectations of the international community.

The international community hopes that talks between the DPRK and the United States will move forward and bear fruit, Xi added.

Stressing that the Korean Peninsula issue is highly sensitive and complex, Xi said a strategic and long-term perspective is needed to accurately guide the evolution of the situation and effectively maintain peace and stability on the peninsula.

China, Xi said, is willing to provide assistance within its capacity for the DPRK to address its legitimate security and development concerns, strengthen coordination and cooperation with the DPRK as well as other relevant parties, and play a positive and constructive role in achieving denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and long-term stability in the region.

For his part, Kim said that over the past year, the DPRK has taken many active measures to avoid tensions and control the situation on the Korean Peninsula, but has not received positive responses from the party concerned, which the DPRK does not want to see.

The DPRK is willing to stay patient, and hopes that the relevant party will work with the DPRK to seek solutions that accommodate each other’s legitimate concerns and push for results from the dialogue process, Kim said.

The DPRK highly appreciates the important role played by China in solving the Korean Peninsula issue, he said, adding that his country is ready to continue to strengthen communication and coordination with China to strive for new progress in the political settlement of the issue and safeguard peace and stability on the peninsula.

Xi arrived in Pyongyang earlier Thursday for a state visit to the DPRK. The visit, Xi’s first as CPC chief and Chinese head of state and also the first of its kind in 14 years, came as the two neighboring countries are celebrating the 70th anniversary of their diplomatic ties.

Source: Xinhua


Chinese President Xi Jinping gives North Korean leader Kim Jong-un his full support

  • ‘Traditional friendship’ between two nations will continue whatever the future brings, Xi says ahead of two-day trip to Pyongyang
  • Visit comes amid rising tensions between Beijing and Washington, and stalled negotiations on the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula
Chinese President Xi Jinping says China will continue to “firmly support” North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Photo: AP
Chinese President Xi Jinping says China will continue to “firmly support” North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Photo: AP
Chinese President Xi Jinping has pledged his full support for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and promised to play an active role in efforts to bring peace and stability to the region, a day ahead of his 
first ever state visit

to the reclusive nation.

Xi’s comments, in an editorial published by North Korean newspaper Rodong Sinmunon Wednesday, come as China remains locked in a trade and technology war with the United States, and after a second summit between US President Donald Trump and Kim in Hanoi in February failed to achieve any progress on the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
“No matter how the international situation changes”, China would “firmly support Chairman Kim Jong-un to lead the North Korean party and people to implement the new strategic line”, the article said.
As well as expressing the two sides’ desire to strengthen “strategic communication and exchanges”, Xi said Beijing would continue to support Pyongyang in its negotiations with other countries.
Xi Jinping (left) says China will “contribute to peace, stability, development and prosperity in the region”. Photo: EPA-EFE
Xi Jinping (left) says China will “contribute to peace, stability, development and prosperity in the region”. Photo: EPA-EFE

“We will actively contribute to peace, stability, development and prosperity in the region by strengthening communication and coordination with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” he said, referring to the country by its official name.

China would also engage with other stakeholders “by jointly expediting progress on dialogue and negotiations on the issues of the Korean peninsula”, he said.

Xi’s state visit to North Korea aims for ‘new impetus’ in ties

Speaking ahead of Xi’s two-day trip to Pyongyang, which starts on Thursday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Tuesday that the outcome of the Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi was “a little unexpected” and that China was encouraging both sides to continue their dialogue.

Trump said last week that he had received a “

beautiful letter

” from Kim that had “reset” the tone between the two countries. In May, he said Pyongyang was “not ready to negotiate”.

One of the major stumbling blocks in the negotiation process has been the United Nations sanctions. Pyongyang has stipulated that they should be lifted as a precondition of the denuclearisation process while Washington has insisted they should remain in place until North Korea provides clear evidence the process is under way.

China, meanwhile, has been accused of providing large amounts of humanitarian aid to its neighbour to help offset the impact of the sanctions.

Xi said China would continue to support North Korea in raising “legitimate concerns through dialogue”.

“No matter how the wind and clouds of the international situation change, our two parties and two peoples inherit and carry forward the traditional friendship between China and the DPRK,” he said.

Zhao Tong, a fellow at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre for Global Policy, said that while the main aim of Xi’s visit was to reaffirm ties, its timing, amid the US-China dispute, was designed to show Beijing still had a role to play in the negotiations.

“As China-US strategic rivalry grows, China wants to maintain its geopolitical influence on the Korean peninsula. By demonstrating its unique relations with the DPRK at a time when neither Washington nor Seoul is able to resume high-level engagements with Pyongyang, Beijing is signalling to Washington that it is still a helpful, constructive and indispensable partner to resolve important regional problems,” he said.

Xi’s visit to North Korea will be the first by a Chinese leader since Hu Jintao in 2005.

Source: SCMP


Shangri-La Dialogue: ‘win for China’, as hopes for Japan-South Korea talks fade

  • The Asian security forum in Singapore had been seen as an ideal venue for a breakthrough in the growing diplomatic spat – but Tokyo has got cold feet
  • That will ease the pressure on Beijing in the South China Sea, analysts say
Hopes are fading for a breakthrough in Japan-South Korea relations at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. Photo: Kyodo
Hopes are fading for a breakthrough in Japan-South Korea relations at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. Photo: Kyodo
Hopes that



South Korea

could use the Shangri-La Dialogue in


to address their growing diplomatic spat are receding.

The three-day Asian security forum, which begins on Friday, had been seen as an ideal neutral venue for the two countries’ defence ministers to hold formal talks on issues including Tokyo’s claim that in January a 
South Korean warship locked its fire control radar

onto a Japanese reconnaissance aircraft.

The issue is one of the biggest deviling the bilateral relationship, alongside Japan’s perception that Seoul has backtracked on a promise to draw a line under Japan’s use of 
Korean sex slaves

– euphemistically known as “comfort women” – in military-run brothels during World War Two.

However, Tokyo appears to have concluded that formal talks on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue would be premature. The Yomiuri newspaper has reported that a formal meeting will no longer take place and that Takeshi Iwaya and Jeong Kyeong-doo, his South Korean opposite number, will now be restricted to a brief, stand-up exchange of their positions.
Despite the report, South Korean officials were guarded when asked whether the meeting had been shelved. “A detailed plan [on the bilateral talks] has yet to be fixed. Consultations are still underway between authorities of the two countries,” said the South Korean defence ministry spokesperson Choi Hyun-soo on Tuesday.
Analysts suggested Japan had run out of patience with South Korea and that the biggest winner in the stand off between two US allies would be China.
Japanese Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya. Photo: Kyodo
Japanese Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya. Photo: Kyodo

“My sense is that Japan sees South Korea as not engaging in negotiations on a number of issues and not adhering in good faith to agreements that it has already signed,” said Stephen Nagy, a senior associate professor of international relations at Tokyo’s International Christian University.

Tokyo has been incensed that the administration of

President Moon Jae-in

has gone back on a 2015 agreement that was meant to draw a final line under the “comfort women” issue. Its anger deepened when Seoul said it would not intervene in a South Korean Supreme Court ruling, which ordered Japanese companies to pay up to 120 million won (US$100,000) to each of a dozen

Koreans forced into labour during Japan’s colonial rule

of the Korean peninsula from 1910-1945.

Like its stance on “comfort women”, Japan believed a line had been drawn under the issue, this time in a 1965 pact that normalised relations between the two countries. Seoul argues that the 1965 treaty, which it signed after receiving US$800 million in grants and soft loans from Tokyo as compensation, does not cover individual victims of colonial-era atrocities.
As rift between Japan, South Korea deepens, how hard can Seoul afford to push?

“Japan is not ready to get into any more agreements because it fears that Seoul will not follow through or that they will become politicised in the future,” Nagy said.

“Tokyo wants binding, long-lasting agreements rather than having to renegotiate something each time a new Korean government comes in,” he said.

“The biggest winner in this stand-off between the US’ two most important allies in the region is, of course, China,” he added. “They must be delighted to see this playing out because it means the US is not able to exert nearly as much pressure in areas such as the 

South China Sea


A long-standing strategic aim in US foreign policy circles has been to form a trilateral alliance with South Korea and Japan to present a united front against common security concerns, including China’s growing influence. However, the seeming inability of the two countries to get along has long thwarted this ambition.
“If Japan, South Korea and the US could find a way to cooperate, imagine the influence they could exert over the South China Sea or over 
North Korea

,” Nagy said. “If Japan and Korea could find a way to put their differences aside and with their security capacity, it would be a powerful deterrent to Beijing and Pyongyang.”

South Korean protesters demonstrate against Japan’s use of sex slaves – euphemistically termed ‘comfort women’ in World War II. Photo: AFP
South Korean protesters demonstrate against Japan’s use of sex slaves – euphemistically termed ‘comfort women’ in World War II. Photo: AFP

Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor of international relations at Tokyo’s Waseda University, agreed that the schism between Seoul and Tokyo would be of serious concern to Washington, but he believed that US pressure had already been brought to bear on the two neighbours.

“By avoiding talks in Singapore, Japan is doing its best to avoid public problems between the two sides and I believe that talks are already taking place between the two governments on these issues,” he said.

US wants Japan and South Korea to tag team China. But history is in the way

“The US will have told Tokyo and Seoul that it does not want to see more disagreements and that it is very important that they cooperate and calm things down a bit,” he said.

“I am sure that Washington knows exactly what happened when the Korean warship locked onto the Japanese aircraft in January, but they’re not publicly taking sides and instead they’re telling both governments to put the dispute behind them and to move on,” he added.

Other analysts were more pessimistic.

“The dynamics in domestic politics in both countries are currently overwhelming any diplomatic motives to improve bilateral ties,” said Bong Young-sik, a researcher at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Photo: AFP
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Photo: AFP
“For President Moon Jae-in, Japan-bashing is a useful political card to appeal to his supporters while for

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

, giving the impression that South Korea is going too far in pressing Japan is also beneficial for his own political gains.”

Professor Ha Jong-moon at Hansin University said there were “no solutions in sight” to resolve the differences over forced labour and wartime sex slavery, but said there would be a chance to “smooth ruffled feathers” at the G20 summit in Osaka, which takes place at the end of June.
The last time the defence ministers of the two countries met was in October last year, when they held talks on the sidelines of the Asean Defence Ministers’ Meeting in Singapore.
Source: SCMP

North and South Korean musicians perform together in China

  • South Korean violinist and North Korean singer hold rare joint performance they hope will help bring the divided Koreas closer together
South Korean violinist Won Hyung Joon performs at the Shanghai Oriental Arts Centre in Shanghai on Sunday. Photo: AP
South Korean violinist Won Hyung Joon performs at the Shanghai Oriental Arts Centre in Shanghai on Sunday. Photo: AP
A South Korean violinist and a North Korean singer on Sunday held a rare joint performance they hope will help bring the divided Koreas closer together via music – especially at a time of emerging tensions amid deadlocked nuclear diplomacy.
Violinist Won Hyung Joon and his North Korean soprano partner Kim Song Mi performed together at a Shanghai concert hall with a Chinese orchestra. Their concert came three days after North Korea fired two suspected short-range missiles in the second such weapons test in five days.
For both, it was their first concert with a musician from the other side of the Korean border, the world’s most heavily fortified. They met several times last year in Beijing and agreed on a joint performance to help promote peace on the Korean peninsula.
As a duet, Kim sang Antonin Dvorak’s Songs My Mother Taught Me while Won played the violin. Kim later sang Arirang, a Korean traditional folk tune beloved in both countries, while the Shanghai City Symphony Orchestra played the music.
North Korean soprano singer Kim Song Mi performs on Sunday. Photo: AP
North Korean soprano singer Kim Song Mi performs on Sunday. Photo: AP

“When I met her [Kim] for the first time, I felt like I was reuniting with an old friend who’s been on the same wavelength with me,” Won said before Sunday’s concert. “This performance shouldn’t be the end … and what’s important now is what other dreams we can have together.”

In a written interview, Kim said she “heartily wishes” that her songs would help bring back reconciliation mood.

North Korea’s missile testing is not a ‘breach of trust’, says Donald Trump

“I’m nervous and anxious about what inspiration the audience would have and what reaction North and South Korean compatriots would show to our joint performance,” she said.

North and South Korean musicians performing together is extremely rare as their governments do not even allow their citizens to exchange phone calls, letter and emails without special approvals. Last year saw an unusual wave of cross-border exchanges after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un abruptly entered talks on the fate of his advancing nuclear arsenal. A group of North Korean dancers and singers performed in South Korea during the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, before South Korean K-pop stars flew to Pyongyang and sang in the presence of Kim and his young wife Ri Sol Ju. Both events were the first of their kind in more than 10 years.

Moon Jae-in begins third year in power
But such exchange programmes are now becoming a rarity again as North Korea is resuming provocative weapons tests in an apparent protest against the lack of progress in nuclear negotiations with the United States. Kim returned home empty-handed from his second summit with US President Donald Trump in Vietnam in February after Trump rebuffed his calls for major sanctions relief in return for his promise to conduct partial disarmament measures. No publicly known high-level meetings between Pyongyang and Washington have since been reported.
Won and Kim performed with a Chinese orchestra. Photo: AP
Won and Kim performed with a Chinese orchestra. Photo: AP

Sunday’s concert will not likely work as a breakthrough in the stalled nuclear diplomacy but it could still “establish an environment” that could make it easier to improve ties between the Koreas, said analyst Cho Han Bum at Seoul’s Korea Institute for National Unification.

Inspired by the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra founded in 1999 to bring together Arab and Israeli musicians together to promote mutual understanding, Won, 42, has been pushing for the establishment of an inter-Korean orchestra for nearly a decade. He’s contacted both governments on numerous occasions, and sometimes partnered with renowned foreign maestros such as Charles Dutoit and Christoph Poppen.

But his push for a Korean orchestra performance has never been realised and was often scrapped at the last minute due to the delicate nature of ties between the Koreas, which are still technically at war because an armistice that ended the 1950-53 has yet to be replaced with a peace treaty. Incidents that helped spike his past plans included the 2015 mine blasts that maimed two South Korean soldiers, and the 2011 tensions touched off by annual South Korean-US military drills that North Korean sees as an invasion rehearsal.

North Korean weapons test was ‘long-range strike’ drill, state media says
Sunday’s performance appeared less difficult to achieve as it involves just one person from each Korea, not dozens of musicians required for an orchestra, and it was happening in China, a third country and North Korea’s major ally but also South Korea’s biggest trading partner.
Jointly performing with the two Koreans is the Shanghai City Symphony Orchestra, the first and biggest amateur symphony orchestra in China. The orchestra earlier invited Won and Kim to its annual charity concert, Love In The City, Pyongyang Shanghai Seoul, before it and Won’s Lindenbaum Festival Orchestra decided to co-organise the event, according to Won.
In a response to questions last week, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said that it approved Won’s contact with Kim as part of efforts to promote diverse kinds of civilian exchanges between the rivals. The South Korean government is led by President Moon Jae-in, a liberal who espouses greater rapprochement with North Korea and has shuttled between Pyongyang and Washington ahead of two summits between Kim and Trump.
Facebook sues South Korean analytics company Rankwave
Kim, 33, a graduate of Pyongyang’s prestigious Kim Won Gyun University of Music, is the North Korean representative in China of the Korean Association for Art Exchange. She is been living in China since 2010. Known for her classical crossover singing technique, she has also released several music albums with North Korean and well-known pieces of classical music. South Korea media reported she is the first North Korean sent abroad as a singer.
Won said when he first met Kim last spring, he felt it was easier for him to communicate with her and explain his dream than when he dealt with North Korean diplomats.
“When I talked about music with [North Korean] diplomats, I had to explain why we need music and why music is good … But I didn’t need to do that when I met Kim, and we could just get to the point,” Won said.
Kim said Won’s works had led her think again about her “love” of the Korean people and that she was willing to contribute to any efforts to promote inter-Korean cooperation.

Won said he would work together with Kim Song Mi to realise similar joint performances on bigger world stages. But he also understood how difficult it had been for him to have a concert like Sunday’s.

“If we can do music together, that means we can understand each other,” Won said. “People are talking about unification, an inter-Korean railway, a peace treaty and the end of war declaration. But can we really do those while failing to do an easy thing like doing music together?”

Source: SCMP


China’s bridge to North Korea opens 3 years after it was built – but why now?

  • Buses from the North make return trip to China on Monday, according to South Korean media
  • Opening of Jian-Manpo border crossing had been delayed during heightened tension over sanctions on the North
The bridge crosses the Yalu River on the border between China and North Korea. Photo: Kyodo
The bridge crosses the Yalu River on the border between China and North Korea. Photo: Kyodo
China and North Korea have finally opened a border bridge built between the two countries in 2016, in a potential boost to the North’s economy as Beijing tries to balance its concerns about its neighbour against ongoing international pressure for it to denuclearise.
A border checkpoint and bridge connecting the Chinese city of Jian with North Korea’s Manpo were open on Monday, following three years of delays since they were built.

Four buses crossed the border from North Korea in the morning and returned to the hermit kingdom about an hour later carrying about 120 people, who included tourists, according to South Korean media. It was not known whether the people travelled from North Korea or boarded the buses in China.

The bridge had remained closed on its completion in 2016, with Beijing taking a cautious approach at a time when it faced international scrutiny of whether it was fully implementing UN Security Council sanctions on the North.

to enforce the sanctions after a UN committee accused it and South Korea of being reluctant to enforce a ban on coal exports from the North.

But there has been a change in the status of the Jian-Manpo border crossing – built near to where Kim’s father, the former leader Kim Jong-il, was reported to have crossed the border in 2010 in a rare trip outside his country.

Kim’s second summit with Trump in February collapsed against a backdrop of continued economic struggles for North Korea. Beijing is wary of instability around the North Korean regime posing a threat to the security of China’s northeast, fearing an influx of refugees into one of its poorest regions.

North Korea’s trade has suffered to the extent that the Korea Development Institute said in February it had almost collapsed.

The North’s exports to China – which accounts for the bulk of its trade – plunged 87 per cent year-on-year in 2018, according to data compiled by South Korea’s Korea

International Trade Association, while there have been myriad other economic problems at a time when Kim has vowed to deliver on the economy.

In April last year, Kim announced that Pyongyang was moving away from its twin-track “byungjin” policy of developing nuclear weapons and the economy simultaneously to focus exclusively on rebuilding the economy.

Boo Seung-chan, adjunct professor at the Yonsei Institute for North Korean Studies in Seoul, said the bridge’s primary use would be to boost tourism in North Korea, which is not restricted by the UN sanctions.

“Tourism is the only sector left for the North Koreans to earn foreign revenue,” Boo said. “Besides, China can only offer its financial help through the tourism sector as it does not wish to violate UN sanctions.

“China’s Korean peninsula policy is to maintain the stability of the region. It may also be drawing a road map for when sanctions may be lifted, finding its means to accelerate its economic engagement to increase its sphere of influence.”

Source: SCMP


China hopes DPRK, U.S. to continue talks

BEIJING, March 18 (Xinhua) — China hopes the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the United States will cherish the hard-won momentum of dialogue and keep talking until a peaceful denuclearized Korean Peninsula is realized, a foreign ministry spokesperson said Monday.

Spokesperson Geng Shuang made the remarks at a daily press briefing in response to a question on DPRK Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui’s comment on a briefing held in Pyongyang.

Choe Son Hui said on Friday that the recent summit between the top leader of the DPRK Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump failed because the U.S. side lacked sincerity.

“After the Hanoi summit, the DPRK and the U.S. both expressed willingness to continue dialogues. We commend and encourage this,” Geng said.

China always believes that the Korean Peninsula issue can only be solved peacefully through political dialogues, he said.

He added that the key to keeping up and advancing dialogue is to accommodate all parties’ legitimate concerns in a balanced way, build up mutual trust and consensus, take phased and synchronized steps, and start with easier moves.

“As the nuclear issue has dragged on for decades and complicated factors are at play, one cannot expect it to be solved overnight. All parties need to have reasonable expectations. One shouldn’t set the bar too high at the outset or make unilateral, unrealistic demands,” Geng quoted Foreign Minister Wang Yi as saying.

He also said China hoped that the DPRK and the United States could cherish the hard-won momentum of dialogue, seize the opportunity, meet each other halfway, build up mutual trust and consensus, keep talking till something good comes out of the talks and a peaceful denuclearized Korean Peninsula is realized.

“The international community should encourage both sides to keep moving toward the goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula and establishing a peace regime,” Geng said.

China will continue to play a constructive role along with other parties, the spokesperson stressed.

Source: Xinhua


North Korea’s Kim on his way by train to summit with Trump in Vietnam

SEOUL/HANOI (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made his way across China by train on Sunday, media reported, bound for a high-stakes second nuclear summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Vietnam’s capital of Hanoi.

Few details of Kim’s trip have been announced but he left Pyongyang by train on Saturday afternoon for the Feb. 27-28 summit accompanied by senior North Korean officials as well as his influential sister, North Korea’s state media reported.

Trump and Kim will meet in Hanoi eight months after their historic summit in Singapore, the first between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader, where they pledged to work towards the complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

With little progress since then, the two leaders are expected to focus on what elements of North Korea’s nuclear programme it might begin to give up, in exchange for U.S. concessions.

In rare, revealing coverage of Kim’s travel, while it is still going on, the North’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper featured photographs of him getting a red-carpet send-off in Pyongyang and waving from a train carriage door while holding a cigarette.


He was accompanied by top officials also involved in the Singapore summit, including Kim Yong Chol, a former spy chief and Kim’s top envoy in negotiations with the United States, as well as senior party aide Ri Su Yong, Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and defence chief No Kwang Chol.

The North Korean leader’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, who acted as a close aide in Singapore, is again part of the delegation, the North’s KCNA news agency reported. It made no mention of his wife, Ri Sol Ju.

The extensive coverage in the secretive North’s official media was a contrast to the limited reporting that has traditionally prevailed during his foreign trips.

Other senior officials, such as his de facto chief of staff Kim Chang Son and Kim Hyok Chol, negotiations counterpart to U.S. envoy Stephen Biegun, were already in Hanoi to prepare for the summit.

With scant progress since the June summit, the two leaders are likely to try to build on their personal connection to push things forward in Hanoi, even if only incrementally, analysts said.

Both sides are under pressure to forge more specific agreements than were reached in Singapore, which critics, especially in the United States, said lacked detail.


“They will not make an agreement which breaks up the current flow of diplomacy. (President Trump) has mentioned that they’ll meet again; even if there is a low-level agreement, they will seek to keep things moving,” said Shin Beom-chul, a senior fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.


The Trump administration has pressed the North to give up its nuclear weapons programme, which, combined with its missile capabilities, poses a threat to the United States, before it can expect any concessions.

North Korea wants an easing of punishing U.S.-led sanctions, security guarantees and a formal end of the 1950-1953 Korean War, which ended in a truce, not a treaty.

Few details of summit arrangements have been released.

Some lamp posts on Hanoi’s tree-lined streets are decked with North Korean, U.S. and Vietnamese flags fluttering above a handshake design, and security has been stepped up at locations that could be the summit venue, or where the leaders might stay.

It could take Kim at least 2-1/2 days to travel to Vietnam by train.

Some carriages of a green train were spotted at Beijing’s station on Sunday, but it was not confirmed it was Kim’s.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said Kim’s train had passed through a station in China’s port city of Tianjin, southeast of Beijing, at around 1 p.m. (0500 GMT).

China has given no details of his trip. Its foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Two top North Korean officials who were not in Singapore but will be in Hanoi are Kim Phyong Hae and O Su Yong, vice chairmen of the party’s Central Committee, respectively in charge of personnel management and industrial affairs, KCNA reported.

O is a former minister of electronics and vice minister of metals and machine building. He might try to learn about Vietnam’s development of manufacturing, analysts said.

Kim Jong Un may tour some economic facilities while in Vietnam.

Vietnam, like North Korea, fought a war against the United States and keeps tight control over its people and economy. It has been touted as a model for North Korea’s development.

Vietnamese media reported that a North Korean cargo plane arrived on Sunday carrying personnel who appeared to be Kim’s security guards and state media workers. They were driven under police escort to a downtown hotel.

Source: Reuters

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