East Asia Compass

China and the Trump-Kim Summit: Beijing's Looming Influence

11 Jun, 2018    ·   5479

Dr Sandip Kumar Mishra argues that although China appears to be in the background, Beijing's influence looms large on the future of North Korea's de-nuclearisation

A flurry of developments in the past few months in and around the Korean peninsula has led to expectations that North Korea might give up its nuclear programme in lieu of some kind of security guarantee and economic benefits. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has apparently taken a calculated risk to hold summit meets first with South Korea and then with the US leaders. South Korea under the President Moon Jae-in has utilised this opportunity judiciously to pursue peace on the Korean peninsula which has been marred by high decibel name callings and provocative actions and reactions between North Korea and the US. In 2018, North Korea has had two summit meets with South Korea - on 27 April and 26 May - and both the Koreas have announced their intent to formally end the Korean War along with making the peninsula nuclear free. In the same vein, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the US President Donald Trump are scheduled to meet in Singapore on 12 June 2018.

It is interesting to note that China has not been an active player in these turns of events and it might be expected that China would not be very pleased with the situation that several strategic shifts have been taking place in its neighbourhood without Beijing being the primary player. For the same reasons, it has been said that China is sidelined or left out from the process. However, the reality seems to be quite the opposite.

In fact, North Korea and China drifted away from each other during the reigns of Chinese President Xi Jinping and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and both leaders had no direct meeting after they came to power in 2013 and 2011 respectively. Furthermore, there are reliable reports that China cooperated with the international community in an unprecedented way to impose economic sanctions on North Korea in 2017. When North Korea decided to participate in the Winter Olympics held in South Korea and met South Korea