Xi Making Surprise Korean Visit

The official state news agencies of China have announced that President Xi will be visiting North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un this week, in Pyongyang. It is to be the first official visit by a Chinese President to North Korea since 2005, which happened under the rule of Un’s father, Kim Jong-Il. This is meant to deliver four key diplomatic messages.

The first, and most obvious, is the reminder of alliance to North Korea. The decision to visit was announced with short notice, something only possible when two nations are allied and typically done, outside of times of war threat, when one nation is visibly subordinate. This visit reinforces the connections between the two countries, and should negate any lingering successes Trump may have had with his “charm offensive” against the North Korean dictator. Un has already been elevated on the world stage and has little direct need of the American President, outside of immediate sanction relief. Xi’s visit will underscore where Un’s allegiances are expected to lie.

The second, also obvious, is a rebuke of President Trump. President Trump has made clear that he has gone from expecting to meet President Xi during the G20 meeting to merely hoping to meet Xi. He has stated that he will raise tariffs immediately if Xi does not bother to meet him, Pompeo has said Trump will raise the issue of the Hong Kong protests if he does meet him, and most recently, in an obvious rhetorical retreat while speaking to Fox News, that it does not matter if Xi meets him. The G20 meetings are scheduled for June 28 & 29; this visit demonstrates that Xi is perfectly capable of travelling locally, and that any declination to attend the G20 is purely due to Chinese intent.

The Chosun Ilbo newspaper in South Korea explains a third message:

The trip comes as a snub to South Korea, which had been pushing for a visit from Xi this month and finds itself increasingly caught in conflict between Beijing and Washington.

As an aside during a trip to North Korea, it would be simple for the Chinese leader to make a stop in South Korea. The fact that Xi is not doing so indicates his disfavor with the country, which will put pressure on President Moon Jae-In. Moon has been prominently featured in negotiations between North Korea, a fact that has helped to damage relations between allies South Korea and Japan. The lack of a visit suggests that China may view South Korea’s usefulness to be greatly diminished during the continued Chinese trade war with the U.S. and the failure of nuclear disarmament talks with North Korea.

Moon, who has put much of his Presidency’s time toward building better relationships with North Korea and China, will be politically wounded by the Chinese snub.

A fourth message, the content of which is as yet uncertain, will be to Russia. Russia has been attempting to build partnerships with both North Korea and China in recent months. The statements made by Xi during his Pyongyang visit will indicate whether China is warning Russia away from encroaching on the relationship with its client state, or welcoming Russia as a coalition partner across northern Asia.

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.