BEIJING – China is willing to continue playing a positive role to seek a political resolution for the Korean Peninsula, the Chinese government’s top diplomat, State Councilor Wang Yi, told North Korea’s foreign minister as diplomatic efforts gather pace.
China is North Korea’s most important economic and diplomatic backer, despite Beijing’s anger at Pyongyang’s repeated nuclear and missile tests and support for strong United Nations sanctions against the North.
However, China has also welcomed moves by North Korea to improve ties with South Korea and the United States.
Wang is visiting Pyongyang following last week’s historic meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and the North’s Kim Jong Un, where both pledged to improve ties.
The North surprised the world several days before that summit by declaring it would dismantle its nuclear test site to “transparently guarantee” its dramatic commitment to stop all nuclear and missile tests.
In a statement late Wednesday, China’s Foreign Ministry cited Wang as offering North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho his congratulations for the successful meeting between the leaders of the North and South.
China fully supports North Korea’s commitment to denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula as well as its decision to concentrate its efforts on economic development, Wang said during his trip to Pyongyang.
“We hope the dialogue between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the United States will be conducted successfully and that substantial progress will be made,” he said, referring to an upcoming meeting between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump.
China also fully supports a resolution of North Korea’s “reasonable and legitimate security concerns” and gives its full support for the improvement of inter-Korean relations, Wang said.
“China is willing to strengthen communication with North Korea and continue to play a positive role in seeking a political solution to the Korean Peninsula issue,” he said.
China had largely sat on the sidelines while the two Koreas improved ties, until Kim made a secretive trip to Beijing to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in late March.
Beijing has been keen to show that it has an indispensable role to play in seeking a lasting solution, concerned that its interests may be ignored, especially as Pyongyang and Washington edge closer together.
The widely read Chinese state-run tabloid the Global Times said in an editorial on Thursday the theory that China was being marginalized “is a shallow attempt to manipulate public opinion.”
China prefers quieter diplomacy, it said, pointing to the secrecy surrounding Kim’s meeting with Xi.
“But Seoul, for its own political purposes, created much hype about the inter-Korean summit. U.S. President Donald Trump has started claiming credit for the Kim-Trump summit before it even starts,” it said.