IT HAS BEEN 14 years since a Chinese leader has visited North Korea. President Xi Jinping’s arrival in Pyongyang on his first visit since assuming power will provide a welcome boost to his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong Un. It also comes ahead of the G20 summit in Osaka towards the end of this month, when Xi will meet US President Donald Trump.
While trade and technology will top their agenda, Xi will find it a useful bargaining chip to have the latest word from Pyongyang on the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, a process in limbo since the collapse of the Hanoi summit between Kim and Trump in February.
Xi will also want to reassure himself that sanctions-hit North Korea remains potentially stable despite the tensions over denuclearization and economic deprivation. Some assistance on the latter by way of humanitarian aid and tourism (an area not yet subject to sanctions) will likely be forthcoming.
There is also much signalling going on here: from Pyongyang to Washington that North Korea still has China’s support, and from Beijing to Washington that denuclearization is not a bilateral issue and that China remains a critical player.