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Kim Jong Un fails to convince his people of the need for denuke talks

Kim Jong Un fails to convince his people of the need for denuke talks

Posted January. 10, 2019 08:04,   

Updated January. 10, 2019 08:50


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made a visit to China once again, boasting close ties with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Experts say the reason behind the visit is because Kim is failing to convince his people of the need for nuclear negotiations with the U.S. Moreover, the visit is based on the concern that China is not supporting North Korea economically as it had expected.

“According to a North Korean official, Kim is failing to convince his people of the need for nuclear negotiations with the U.S.,” a North Korean source in China said. “Chairman Kim thinks that South Korean President Moon Jae-in will eventually cave in to the U.S.’ demands. Above all, he thinks President Moon’s purpose is to change North Korea. He does not fully trust President Moon.”

Multiple sources in South Korea, who have contacted with North Korean officials, say the same about Kim’s failed attempt to persuade his people. It could be part of North Korea’s propaganda that the U.S. should lift sanctions on North Korea before it dismantles its nuclear program. On the other hand, it could reflect the situation Kim is facing at the moment in his country.

In particular, hotels in Dandong, Liaoning, the border area between North Korea and China, are bustling with North Korean traders, according to another North Korean source in China. They reportedly complain of the difficult economic situation in North Korea. Some are displeased at lack of progress in economic cooperation between North Korea and China despite the fact that Kim’s visits to China three times last year remarkably improved bilateral ties.

Against the backdrop where the nuclear negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea remain at an impasse, the difficulties North Korea is facing might have played a role in Chairman Kim’s surprise visit to China while pushing ahead with a second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.

The North Korean leader needs to show his people that Xi stands by him and is willing to support him at any time in order to assuage the concerns about the U.S.-North Korea negotiations. In his New Year's address, Kim Jong Un warned of seeking a “new path” if Washington keeps up its sanctions on his nation. That “new path” cannot be taken without a full support from China.

It is likely that Kim has reiterated the need to expand economic cooperation between North Korea and China, asking for economic support from Xi. There is also a high possibility that Kim asked Xi to actively urge sanctions relief. If the Chinese president accepts Kim’s demands, the two countries could move beyond maintaining amicable relations and strategically voice the same opinions on security issues, such as North Korean nuclear weapons and peace regime.

The Chinese edition of Voice of America reported that Chairman Kim and President Xi got what they needed through the North Korea-China summit.

Wan-Jun Yun zeitung@donga.com