Trump’s decision of meeting North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, in about two months, could be a positive thing for China, but it can also be a risk for the country’s interests.

There is no way to know how the talks between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un are going to unfold, mainly because both of them tend to act emotional and irrationally at some points. However, for China, it could be a relief since tensions might decrease in the region. It could also mean less power for China, which acted as an intermediary between North Korea and the occidental world.

There is a lot left to know before the meeting between Trump and Kim takes place. However, as far as we know, the U.S plans to launch a military strike on North Korea are already postponed. Tensions in the peninsula are at ease, at least right now. Xi Jinping can apparently see the bright side of these talks. He doesn’t have to face the threat of a war right next to China, that could undermine the security of that country.

However, not everything is good for China. There are worries that this country could be sidelined in the negotiations between Trump and Kim, which will take place by the end of May. That could certainly make it more difficult for China to safeguard its national interests.

China could be sidelined

The day after the summit between the two countries was announced, Xi Jinping called Trump to congratulate him on his decision. He urged both sides to dialogue and negotiate as fast as it was possible to obtain positive results.

North Korea, Korea, Kim Jong-un, Donald Trump
China could be sidelined in the negotiations between Trump and Kim. Image credit. quartz

It is important to remember that China has had an ad-hoc participation in this diplomatic dispute between the U.S and North Korea for a long time, trying to calm each of the parties involved, as the primary commercial and political partner of North Korea in the world.

The U.S strategy to punish Pyongyang by imposing severe international sanctions has concerned China. In Beijing, they fear that North Korea could collapse because of sanctions, giving way for American troops to be deployed close the border between China and North Korea.

On the other hand, China understands the position of the United States, since China itself wishes to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear program.

Having a nuclear neighbor is risky for China, a country that was the sole legitimate atomic power of the region. A nuclearized North Korea could create a security dilemma, with Japan, South Korea and even Taiwan looking forward to starting their nuclear program. Such a scenario would mean the end of the Non-proliferation treaty and could reduce the security of China in the region.

China’s role in the U.S-North Korea relations

China has played a crucial role in past negotiation between those two countries. It was the host and convener of the Six-Party Talks – which was a negotiation process held between 2003 and 2007 between representatives of North Korea, the United States, and four other countries, to discuss a way to stop the North Korean nuclear program in exchange for other incentives.

North Korea, Korea, Kim Jong-un, Donald Trump
Trump will meet the North Korean leader. Kim Jong-Un. Image credit: NY Daily News

In 2005, Pyongyang had agreed to renounce its nuclear ambitions. The United States, on the other hand, promised not to have nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula, nor to attack North Korea.

China “can only stand on the sidelines and welcome the development, but it can almost do nothing”, stated Professor Shi Yinhong, who is the director of People’s University’s Center for American Studies and adviser to the State Council.

However, now it doesn’t seem to be a place for China in the negotiation table that will take place in May. The nation might fear that these conversations might threaten China’s geopolitical interests,  though tensions in the peninsula are a result of problems between Pyongyang and Washington.

On the other hand, Zhang Liangui, a professor and Korea scholar at the Central Party School in Beijing considered that the North Korea nuclear issue “involves geopolitical and regional security and China naturally should take an active part in it.”

Both professors consider China should take part in the negotiation between Trump and Kim. It might even be responsible for this recent outcome between the U.S-North Korean relations. In fact, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi took credit for this new negotiation, by saying that China’s “dual Freeze” proposal was proven to be correct, and it pathed the way for an improvement in the inter-Korean relations.

Somehow, the Chinese foreign minister is highlighting to the parties involved – Seoul, Pyongyang, and Washington – that China has a lot to do with the recent events, and that the Chinese participation would be indispensable for peacemaking.

Source: National Public Radio (NPR)