China on Tuesday dismissed the view that President Xi Jinping’s North Korea visit this week was a signal to the US that Beijing could use its sway over Pyongyang as “leverage” in dealing with the US amid their escalating trade war.
China’s state media on Monday announced that Xi will be on a two-day visit to North Korea from Thursday, becoming China’s first President to visit the reclusive Communist state in 14 years.
Xi’s visit to Pyongyang comes ahead of a likely crucial meet with US President Donald Trump later this month on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan.
Trump, who has taken his ongoing trade spat with China to the next level, has threatened to raise tariffs on more Chinese goods if Xi fails to meet him.
The sudden announcement of Xi’s visit to North Korea is being viewed as Beijing’s strategy to indicate to the US that it holds considerable sway over its ally Pyongyang whose nuclear weapons programme has long worried Washington.
“You said ‘China may use this visit as leverage on the US. I shall say certain people with such thinking may over-interpret that,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said to a question.
“China and the DPRK (North Korea) are close neighbours enjoying friendly relations. The two countries always maintained good exchanges. We hope you can get a clear idea about this visit and our firm determination to develop friendly ties with DPRK and do not make unnecessary links or connections,” he added.
Asked further if the timing of Xi’s visit had anything to do with his possible meet with Trump, Lu said: “The timing of Xi’s visit has nothing to do with talks with the US.”
“Trade disputes between the US and China have dragged on for one year or so. I don’t see why it is getting more sensitive for the moment,” he said.
He said Beijing was surprised by the failed summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi this year. This was the second meet between the two leaders after they met the first time in Singapore in June last year.
China is North Korea’s sole ally and their ties date back to the Korean War in which Mao Zedong’s elder son died fighting against the South Koreans. It is also believed that the North pays heed to what Beijing says.
The Trump administration has often accused China of not doing enough to push North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons programme.
While the US seeks to exact complete denuclearisation from North Korea, Kim fears giving up all his nukes may invite an armed invasion by the US.
Both North Korea and the US are decades-old arch-enemies. It all began in 1950 when the North invaded South Korea, an event which was followed by the three-year Korean War that ended in a stalemate.
While China stood by the North, Seoul was backed by the US which since then has its forces deployed in the South.
North Korea says it’s nukes are a deterrent to Washington and Seoul as it fears an invasion from them.