China urges US, North Korea to remain calm, ′show goodwill′ | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 25.05.2018
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China urges US, North Korea to remain calm, 'show goodwill'

US President Trump's decision to scrap his planned summit with N. Korean leader Kim Jong Un could hurt Washington's ties to Seoul and damage Trump's credibility and reputation, say Chinese analysts. William Yang reports.

On Thursday, US President Donald Trump surprised the world by announcing his decision to suspend the proposed historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which was scheduled to take place on June 12 in Singapore.   

The decision came after officials from both sides exchanged a series of hostile statements, repeatedly threatening to engage each other in a nuclear showdown.

In his letter to Kim, Trump blames the cancellation of the summit on aggressive statements from Pyongyang, and claims that the US military "is ready if necessary." North Korea responded by emphasizing Kim's commitment to resolve issues with Washington.

"We tell the United States once more that we are open to resolving problems at anytime in any way," said North Korea's Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan in a statement.

Reputational cost

Following Trump's move, China urged both the US and North Korea to be patient and "show goodwill."

An editorial published by China's state-run Global Times pointed out that Trump's move to cancel the meeting hours after Pyongyang demolished a nuclear test site near Punggye-ri could increase North Korea's suspicion about Washington's sincerity, while seriously damaging the progress that has been achieved on the Korean Peninsula in the last few months.

"Washington achieved some easy diplomatic goals in the last few weeks after Pyongyang released three American prisoners and dismantled one nuclear test site," wrote Global Times. "But it will now become extremely challenging for Washington to achieve more diplomatic goals."

The editorial also argued that Thursday's decision will make an impression on the world that cancelling the summit was a move similar to Washington's decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal earlier this month. 

Strained ties

Beijing's relations with Pyongyang, a traditional ally, had been strained by the nuclear crisis, with China backing a slew of United Nations sanctions following the North's atomic and missile tests.

But this year, President Xi Jinping met twice with Kim within two months as they sought to repair ties. China remains North Korea's main strategic and economic partner.

Trump suggested earlier this week, before cancelling the summit, that the Chinese president may have had an influence on the young North Korean autocrat, whose position apparently hardened after meeting Xi twice within a short period.

But Beijing denied that China had any "ulterior motives," stressing that it was committed to the denuclearization of the peninsula, peace and resolving the issue through dialogue.

Chinese analysts believe that Trump's latest move could help North Korea be better understood by the international community, especially since it showed its commitment to denuclearization by dismantling the nuclear test site.

"North Korea may accuse the US of having no sincerity on talks but it may not easily break promises on denuclearization," said Lu Chao, a research fellow at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, in an interview with Global Times.

Read more: 

Opinion: Donald Trump's North Korea gamble has backfired

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Jeopardizing progress

Global Times also reaffirmed support for North Korea by claiming that Pyongyang's commitment to denuclearization has substantially improved bilateral relations between China and North Korea. To prevent the tense situation from escalating further, the state-run outlet urged Washington and Pyongyang to avoid making any threatening moves and returning to the hostile relationship that could lead to the worst-case scenario for the Korean Peninsula.

"China will continue to cultivate a friendly relationship with Pyongyang, and we hope South Korea can keep contributing to maintaining the hard-won peace on the Korean Peninsula," said the editorial. "Washington's decision on Thursday has created a tough situation for itself and all parties involved. Remaining calm will be very important at this point."

Responding to Trump's decision to cancel the summit, the spokesperson for China's foreign ministry, Lu Kang, emphasized that China's position on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula has been clear and consistent. He urged the US and North Korea to cherish the progress that has been achieved so far, while continuing to remain patient and express goodwill towards each other.

"We hope the US and North Korea can keep negotiating solutions that can address both sides' concerns, and continue to push for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula," said Lu during the press conference.

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