Every state appreciates docile neighbours and it is especially true for major powers. China is no exception. It has enjoyed North Korean docility in the last seven decades and maintained its only formal military alliance with it. Therefore, it’s strikingly difficult for China to watch, with bated breath, Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un’s meeting in Singapore to unravel their mutual hostility.
North Korea has remained a captive market for China’s civil and military goods and a major source of its seafood imports. China has also used North Korea as an alarm button, pressing once in a while, to shape the regional security narrative in East Asia. Every time the US forces conducted a military exercise near China’s assumed red lines, both China and North Korea have protested and threatened with retaliatory measures.
Therefore, China feels left out of this regional-security shaping event, even though Kim visited China twice in the run-up to the summit and used a Chinese aircraft to arrive in Singapore. Chinese fears have a firm foundation. China and North Korea are uncomfortable allies since 1950. Historically, both states have remained adversarial and even during Kim’s first presidential term, their bilateral relations soured when Kim killed his uncle, Jang Song-thaek and other officials, deemed to be pro-China in their approach.
China would prefer North Korea to agree to a conditional denuclearisation, different from what Americans are seeking. Mike Pompeo, the US national security adviser, has sought for a complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation (CVID) of North Korea, while Kim seeks denuclearisation of the entire Korean Peninsula. If Kim insists on the US stoppage of its nuclear submarine patrols in the region and removal of nuclear bombers from Guam and 28,500 American troops from South Korea, then that would be the optimum option for China.
Please click here to read the full “Donald Trump meets Kim Jong-un: China crosses fingers as rising bonhomie may draw North Korea closer to US” article at First Post by Griffith Asia Institute Adjunct Research Fellow, Dr Atul Kumar.