Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday endorsed the idea of a direct meeting between President Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, following a meeting with South Korean officials.
"We expect a smooth [North Korea-South Korea] summit and DPRK-U.S. dialogue,” Xi said Monday, using the acronym for the North Korean regime, according to state-run media.
Trump accepted Kim’s invitation last week for a meeting to take place by May, although the details and logistics have yet to be determined. Some analysts question whether the meeting will take place at all, much less result in good-faith negotiations to dismantle the regime’s nuclear weapons program, but Xi’s statement suggested North Korea’s most powerful patron favors the idea.
“I am delighted that S. Korea's efforts have made great progress in the overall Korean Peninsula situation and that close dialogue between NK and the U.S. has been achieved,” Xi also said in a statement, according to CNN.
China has played a mixed role in the nuclear crisis, stiffening implementation of sanctions on the pariah regime after decades of insulating North Korea from the full blast of the international crackdown. And yet, China and Russia have kept the pressure increase within certain limits, as when they blocked a western effort to impose an oil embargo, but did allow the United Nation Security Council to pass a resolution diminishing North Korea’s access to oil.
"China didn't do what the U.S. and South Korea had requested before, which would push North Korea into a corner,” Lu Chao, one of the Chinese Communist party’s top experts on Korean issues, told a state-run media outlet known for hawkish foreign policy positions. "If North Korea collapsed due to the harsh sanctions, the situation would have been much more difficult. Problems like refugees, military conflicts and nuclear proliferation will hurt every country in the region.”
North Korean officials have gone silent publicly since Trump’s acceptance of the invitation. "I think North Korea needs time to organize their position and is being careful and cautious in approaching regarding the summit,” South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyn said, per CNN.