September 30, 2020

Thunderclouds over the honeymoon: Kim, Xi, and the looming Trump summit

The Sino-DPRK relationship is better than it has been in years, but there are roadblocks ahead

Amid the welter of diplomatic moves that have occurred in and around the Korean peninsula in 2018, the two meetings in quick succession between the North Korean leader and China’s eternally-consolidating leader, Xi Jinping, have been one of the more curious elements.

After a six-year hiatus from meeting foreign leaders at all, Kim’s mode of turning so suddenly back to China was indeed extraordinary. The Dalian meetings on May 7 and 8 included a beach walk in an area famous locally for wedding photos, giving the summit the feeling of a wedding party or perhaps a reunion of long-estranged mates. (Although, it must be noted, most honeymoon Facebook posts or missives home do not include phrases like “an in-depth exchange of views on important issues of mutual concern,” as the long-form PRC Foreign Ministry readout of the Dalian meetings did.)