Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to visit North Korea next month on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the North Korean regime, the Straits Times of Singapore reported on Saturday. The Chinese government declined to confirm, but Xi’s return visit to Pyongyang after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s three visits to China is considered to be effectively planned. A Chinese leader’s visit to North Korea will be for the first time in 13 years since former Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit in 2005. China informed South Korean lawmakers who visited China recently that Beijing had proposed the United States that it wished to participate in "four-party declaration of the end of the Korean War," expressing commitment to play an active role by claiming its entitlement as a party to Korean Peninsula issues.
Thus far, China has denied its responsibility, saying, “North Korea’s nuclear weapons are an issue for Pyongyang and Washington, and Beijing should not be linked with the issue.” As controversy flared up over "alleged China passing (exclusion of China)" amid fast evolving situations around the Korean Peninsula early this year, Beijing said. “We are prepared to take a proactive role as a party to Korean Peninsula issues.” Now, Beijing has made it official its intention to participate in not only the signing of peace treaty but also declaration of the end of the Korean War. After staying away from the issue when it had an important role to play, Beijing is now moving to intervene as the situation is poised to make progress.
Washington is suspicious of Beijing’s such move. U.S. President Donald Trump recently said that the relations with North Korea got somewhat damaged due to China. Washington suspects that Beijing, which has been cornered due to U.S.-China trade war, has influenced North Korea to slow down the process for denuclearization. Also, there is a prevailing sense of discontent within the United States that China secretively opened loopholes in sanctions against North Korea to loosen international collaboration to sanction Pyongyang. Amid this situation, Xi’s Pyongyang visit meant to demonstrate their alliance will further deepen Washington’s distrust.
China is a country that participated in the Korean War and a signatory to the armistice agreement. It was improper to exclude such a country from discussions over Korean Peninsula issues in the first place. However, it was also true that China’s non-participation in the discussions was considered an established fact due to China’s passive stance coupled with argument for the need to exclude Beijing. The parties should now, albeit belated, formulate a process anew to achieve the North’s denuclearization and establish a peace regime under the condition of China’s participation. To this end, China should clearly promise first that it firmly supports the goal of Pyongyang’s complete denuclearization and the principle of continued sanctions against Pyongyang.