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Xi told Kim he’ll support him even if Trump meeting fails

May 18,2018
이미지뷰
President Xi Jinping, right, and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, left, have a conversation on May 8 while taking a stroll in Dalian, China. [YONHAP]
Chinese President Xi Jinping told North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during their summit last week that Beijing has his back even if the North-U.S. summit scheduled for next month fails, according to a government source in Seoul.

“China promised active support even if the North-U.S. summit does not turn out well,” the government source told JoongAng Ilbo on Thursday, describing meetings between Xi and Kim over May 7 and 8 in Dalian, in China’s northeast Liaoning Province, their second summit in some 40 days.

The two leaders, according to this source, “concentrated on the method of denuclearization of North Korea and the expected changes in the situation on the Korean Peninsula resulting from the North-U.S. summit.”

What would be an historic summit between North Korean leader Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump is planned for June 12 in Singapore, though Pyongyang on Wednesday raised the possibility of pulling out.

“The two leaders particularly pledged China’s active support in North Korea’s politics, economy and diplomacy, regardless of the outcome of the North-U.S. summit,” the source added.

North Korea’s state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun reported last week right after Kim’s visit to China that Kim “expressed gratitude to the Chinese comrades, saying that their firm support and encouragement and comradely cooperation greatly encourage the party and people of the DPRK,” using the acronym for the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Kim also was reported to have analyzed the “development of the situation around the Korean Peninsula undergoing profound changes” and “mentioned the ways to more actively and closely boost the tactical cooperation between the DPRK and China by using the strategic opportunity.”

He also expressed to Xi a hope “to expand the friendly visits between the two countries and keep the contacts close in a flexible and diverse manner in the future.”

In recent years, China has kept a chilly distance from North Korea amid the regime’s continued provocations and has backed international sanctions punishing Kim’s regime for nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

But a diplomatic thaw followed Kim’s surprise summit with Xi in late March, ahead of both his first inter-Korean summit in April and the upcoming North-U.S. summit.

After the second Kim-Xi summit, further warming ties, North Korea appears to be expressing gratitude to China for promising guardianship and also signaling a united front between Beijing and Pyongyang over issues on the Korean Peninsula.

“When North Korea initially proposed a summit with the United States [in March], it did not have any sort of background with China,” said Nam Sung-wook, a professor of North Korean studies at Korea University.

“While the North does not have the intention of breaking the atmosphere of dialogue with the United States, it sends a message that it will have to reach out to China if the United States continues to put pressure [on North Korea].”

BY JEONG YONG-SOO, SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]