The recent escalation of tensions on the Korean peninsula and the deadlock in U.S.-DPRK dialogue is “not beneficial” to North Korea, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said at a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday morning.
Moon also emphasized China’s “important role in the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and the establishment of peace,” telling pool reporters at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing that he hopes South Korea and China will “cooperate more closely” so that “the long-awaited opportunity [for denuclearization and peace] produces fruit.”
Moon’s remarks come a day after North Korean state media reported that leader Kim Jong Un presided over a meeting of the country’s top military officials amid silence following U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun’s visit to Seoul earlier this week.
The summit also took place days after China and Russia proposed a North Korean sanctions relief package to the UN Security Council (UNSC) the previous week, which was called “premature” and immediately rejected by Washington.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday then tweeted that he had “a very good talk” with President Xi about North Korea, among other reportedly discussed issues.
During the summit meeting on Monday, Xi said that “China and South Korea should work together” to help the North and the U.S. “continue the momentum of dialogue,” according to Blue House spokesperson Ko Min-jung.
Monday’s summit was Moon’s second visit to Beijing as president, the first being two years ago in December 2017.
Moon, apparently referring to the years-old THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) dispute that soured South Korea-China relations in 2016, highlighted the closeness of the two countries despite them sometimes feeling “mutually hurt for a while.”
The summit meeting between Moon and Xi went on for 55 minutes, while Xi said that he will “actively review” Moon’s invitation for him to visit Seoul, Ko said.
PYONGYANG CONTINUES TO REJECT SEOUL’S ROLE IN TALKS
Moon, according to Blue House spokesperson, emphasized during Monday’s summit meeting that “it is more important than anything to keep the momentum of dialogue between the North and the U.S. alive.”
It remains to be seen how North Korea will, if at all, respond to Monday’s remarks by the South Korean President, but the country has in recent days continued its criticism of the South’s role in denuclearization talks.
Following Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi’s meeting with Moon in Seoul earlier this month, North Korea’s externally-focused Pyongyang Broadcasting Station on December 15 indirectly criticized the South Korean President for “begging foreign powers… for denuclearization and peace on the Korean peninsula,” according to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.
On Monday, North Korea’s externally-focused outlet Uriminzokkiri denounced South Korea for “impertinently meddling to be a ‘mediator'” between North Korea and the United States, a reference to Biegun’s meeting with South Korean officials the previous week.
North Korea is also continuing via externally-oriented news outlets to reject South Korea’s olive branch in other areas of inter-Korean relations, especially in the area of humanitarian aid.
Over the weekend, Uriminzokkiri called out South Korea’s Ministry of Unification (MOU) for plans to send humanitarian aid to North Korea, claiming that Seoul’s intention is to cover-up its “failing to implement even a single article of North-South Agreement squashed by U.S. pressure.”
On the day of Moon’s Beijing visit, the website Arirang Meari repeated criticism of Seoul’s humanitarian aid, stating that South Korea had “gravely hampered development in North-South relations… being fooled just like a puppet in America’s hand.”
Despite the rejections, South Korea is pushing ahead with humanitarian projects in regards to North Korea: on Monday, the MOU announced a support plan for an inter-Korean cooperation fund deciding to give around 2 billion KRW through the Korean Red Cross to aid reconstruction from typhoon damage.
NORTH KOREA’S PARTY PLENUM LIES AHEAD
Monday’s summit between Moon and Xi comes amid speculation on North Korea’s imminent December party plenum, where it is likely a major hard-line shift in foreign policy and possibly a reversal of Kim Jong Un’s earlier decisions in the year will be announced.
On Sunday, North Korean state media reported that a “Third Enlarged Meeting of the Seventh Central Military Commission (CMC) of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK)” was held, in which Kim referred to a rise in tensions with other countries and said that the military should be bolstered.
Rachel Minyoung Lee, senior analyst at NK News’s sister site NK Pro, said the Third CMC meeting was “clearly held as a precursor to the party plenum.”
However, as of Monday, there has not yet been any state media coverage on the holding of the plenum.
When asked about the possibility of North Korea taking China’s summit schedules into consideration concerning plenum coverage, Lee said that other reasons are more likely for Pyongyang’s timing.
“I would have expected North Korea to hold the plenum the day after the CMC meeting, based on past precedent, but past examples also indicate that a two-day lag between two back-to-back meetings is not unusual either,” she explained, adding that it is “hard to say” whether the North delayed the plenum because of the summit talks in China.
“Another possible reason for the delay may be that yesterday was a Sunday, which is a weekend in North Korea as well. It is possible that Kim may have wanted to give the day off to the meeting participants,” she said.
China, South Korea, and Japan are also set to hold a trilateral summit in Chengdu on Tuesday, along with another bilateral summit between Japan’s Shinzo Abe and Moon.
The exact date of Pyongyang’s party plenum is yet to be announced.
Edited by James Fretwell
Featured image: Moon Jae-in Twitter @moonriver365
The recent escalation of tensions on the Korean peninsula and the deadlock in U.S.-DPRK dialogue is "not beneficial" to North Korea, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said at a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday morning.
Moon also emphasized China's "important role in the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and the establishment of peace," telling pool reporters at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing that he hopes South Korea and China will "cooperate more closely" so that "the long-awaited opportunity [for denuclearization and peace] produces fruit."