Chinese President Xi Jinping and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un held their fourth summit on Tuesday, Chinese state media confirmed on Thursday, at which the two agreed to continue to expand ties and to work towards a peace settlement on the peninsula.
In an English-language dispatch issued by Xinhua two days after the meeting and a day after Kim Jong Un’s train was reported to have left Beijing, the leaders were reported to have held an “in-depth exchange of views” in their meeting on Tuesday.
The two agreed to “push for continuous new development of China-DPRK relations in the new era,” the report said, as well as “constantly advance the political settlement process of the Korean Peninsula issue.”
Kim and Xi also said they would work to “bring more benefits to people of the two countries, and make positive contribution to peace, stability, prosperity and development of the region and the world.”
A Chinese language dispatch said Kim had used the meeting to praise China’s “important role” in easing tensions on the Korean peninsula in the past year, as well as reaffirming his intention to denuclearize and to hold a second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.
“The DPRK will continue to adhere to the stand of denuclearization, resolve the issues of the peninsula through dialogue and consultation, and work hard for a second meeting of the DPRK-U.S. leaders,” Kim was quoted as having said.
The North Korean leader also said he hoped all “relevant parties” would understand the “legitimate concerns” of the DPRK – likely a reference to Pyongyang’s demands for security guarantees in the event of denuclearization, as well as its calls last month for the U.S. “nuclear threat” to be removed from the region.
The Chinese President, in turn, used the meeting to reaffirm Beijing’s support for Kim Jong Un’s April 2018 decision to refocus the country’s resources away from nuclear weapons and into the economy.
China firmly supports that “new strategic line,” Xi said, praising Kim for his efforts to “concentrate on economic development and improve people’s livelihood.”
The North Korean leader was then reported to have hailed China’s economic development, suggesting that Pyongyang could learn from Beijing’s experiences.
“The DPRK believes that China’s development experience is very valuable and hopes to come to China for field visits and exchanges,” Kim said.
One expert said these comments will likely play well among the Chinese leadership, pointing to Kim Jong Un’s father’s own long-stated interest in Beijing’s economic reform model.
“Beijing has long wanted North Korea to follow its own path of reform and opening up,” Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia and the director of the China Power Project at CSIS, told NK News.
“They took Kim Jong Un’s father to many special economic zones, in the hope that the demonstration effect would encourage Kim Jong Il to implement reforms,” she continued.
“Some Chinese experts seem optimistic that the time has finally come; that Kim Jong Un is serious about pursuing economic reform. These statements will make them more optimistic.”
“There’s a lot to interest North Korean policymakers about China, Cuba and Vietnam in their way of managing the transition from central control to a more decentralized, marketized economic system,” Peter Ward, a writer and researcher on the North Korean economy, said.
Pyongyang may also be driven by more pragmatic, short-term concerns, he added.
“China obviously is also a great potential source of investment. So learning from China is clearly a way to build relationships that could be helpful not only for obtaining useful info, but also cash.”
Kim Jong Un began his journey to China from Pyongyang by train on Monday, arriving in Beijing on Tuesday around midday.
Looks like those reports of a visit to the Tong Ren Tang conglomerate yesterday were right! pic.twitter.com/EToP3UhIJz
— Oliver Hotham (@OliverHotham) January 9, 2019
North Korean media reported that Kim was accompanied on the visit by First Lady Ri Sol Ju and chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the DPRK Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) Ri Su Yong.
Also joining him were vice-chairmen of the Central Committee (CC) of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) Kim Yong Chol and Pak Thae Song, as well as foreign minister Ri Yong Ho and head of the Ministry of People’s Armed Forces No Kwang Chol.
The meeting’s itinerary had been largely wrapped in mystery, with neither Chinese or North Korean media providing reports while the summit was ongoing.
Local media coverage was largely dominated by speculation over the meaning of the trip and about Kim Jong Un, with ruling party organ the People’s Daily describing him as “the most extraordinary millennial.”
“The Chinese seemed particularly keen this time on emphasizing Kim Jong Un’s youth and subordinate position — that he is learning from Chinese guidance and experiences,” Mintaro Oba, a former U.S. State Department East Asia desk officer, told NK News.
“This may well irritate Pyongyang, but it’s a small price to pay for the leverage North Korea gains by demonstrating continued Chinese support for diplomacy on North Korea’s terms.”
This leverage, Oba said, will be essential in the run-up to the second U.S.-DPRK summit.
“It is a continuation of North Korea’s approach of using engagement with one to gain stature and leverage with the other,” he said.
The two leaders were reported to have met for both one-on-one and group talks upon Kim’s arrival on Tuesday, before a banquet to mark the DPRK leaders’s 35th birthday.
Wednesday then saw Kim and his officials tour an industrial plant in Beijing, including a pharmaceutical factory owned by the Tong Ren Tang conglomerate.
He was then reported to have met the Chinese President again, before departing for Pyongyang around 1400 local time.
Featured image: Rodong Sinmun