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Monday 27 May 2019

South Korea urges ‘concrete’ plan on nuclear weapons as Kim visits China

Chinese state media quoted President Xi Jinping as hailing the warming friendship with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

Xi Jinping and Kim Jong Un inspect the honour guard at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
Xi Jinping and Kim Jong Un inspect the honour guard at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

By Christopher Bodeen, Associated Press

South Korea has urged North Korea to present a plan with concrete steps towards denuclearisation, raising the pressure on its leader Kim Jong Un as he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Mr Kim and Mr Xi held a second day of talks at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, whose grounds China’s official Xinhua News Agency described in unusually lyrical terms as being full of “verdant greenery and splendid flowers”, adding to what the propaganda outlet said was the “close and friendly atmosphere” of the talks.

The pomp and circumstance looked geared towards showing off the major improvement in relations between the communist neighbours, along with China’s important role in keeping North Korea on track.

Xi Jinping and Kim Jong Un at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

But it cast no new light on the main question that hangs over the previously reclusive North Korean leader’s surge in diplomatic activity in recent months: What next steps, if any, will Mr Kim take to dismantle his country’s nuclear programme?

At his summit with US President Donald Trump last week in Singapore, Mr Kim pledged to work towards denuclearisation in exchange for US security guarantees.

The US and South Korea also suspended a major joint military exercise that was planned for August in what was seen as a major victory for North Korea and its chief allies, China and Russia.

Chinese state media quoted Mr Xi as hailing the warming friendship with Mr Kim but included no mention of any specific discussions on making progress on the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.

Kim Jong Un with Xi Jinping (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

Mr Xi said China is pleased that “the momentum for dialogue and easing of the situation on the Korean Peninsula has been effectively strengthened”, according to Xinhua.

In Seoul, South Korean President Moon Jae-in urged North Korea to present actionable plans on how it will scrap its nuclear programme, and for the United States to swiftly take unspecified corresponding measures.

“It’s necessary for North Korea to present far more concrete denuclearisation plans, and I think it’s necessary for the United States to swiftly reciprocate by coming up with comprehensive measures,” Mr Moon said.

Mr Moon’s office said he made the remarks to Russian media ahead of his trip to Moscow later this week.

Mr Moon, who has met with Mr Kim twice in recent months, said the North Korean leader is willing to give up his nuclear programme and focus on economic development if he is provided with a reliable security guarantee.

Mr Moon described Mr Kim as forthright, careful and polite.

China backs the North’s call for a “phased and synchronous” approach to denuclearisation, as opposed to Washington’s demand for an instant, total and irreversible end to the North’s nuclear programmes.

Accompanied by an elaborate escort of motorcycles and black vehicles, Mr Kim left for Pyongyang later in the day, ending his third visit to China this year.

Police motorcycle escorts wait for Kim Jong Un’s motorcade (Ng Han Guan/AP)

State television showed Mr Kim visiting an agricultural technology park and rail traffic control centre in Beijing, accompanied by Beijing’s top official Cai Qi.

Mr Kim’s motorcade had earlier been seen leaving the North Korean embassy as police closed off major roads and intersections in central Beijing.

Pedestrians watched the passing motorcade that included Mr Kim’s limousine – a black Mercedes-Benz Maybach with gold emblems on the rear doors.

A report by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said Mr Kim told Mr Xi at a welcoming banquet on Tuesday that North Korea-China ties are developing into “unprecedentedly special relations”.

China has touted the prospects of more trade and investment if North Korea makes progress in talks on abandoning its nuclear weapons and long-range missile programmes.

That could allow the lifting of UN Security Council economic sanctions that have hamstrung North Korea’s foreign trade, although the US insists those measures can only be eased after the North shows it has ended its nuclear programmes.

The US says China is in agreement on that point, although Chinese officials say sanctions should not be an end in themselves.

Mr Kim was expected to have sought China’s help with getting relief from the sanctions during his visit.

Xinhua’s report did not mention sanctions, but quoted Mr Kim as saying that the two countries “are as close and friendly as family, and help each other”.

Press Association

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