Why is China “Sitting on the Fence” on the North Korean Nuclear Negotations? Explaining China’s “Loud Silence”

Dr. Lee Seong-hyon
14 November 2019

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has staged five summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in a mere span of 16 months, from March 2018 to June 2019. The period also coincides with the unprecedented nuclear negotiations between Kim and Trump. Media dubbed it “the negotiation of the century.” When it comes to the North Korean affair, China is known to have the largest influence in the world. Trump even said China has “total control” over North Korea. However, China has been largely “sitting on the fence” lately on the North Korean affair. It has been the case even after the collapse of the working-level meeting between the U.S. and North Korea in Stockholm in October, 2019. China used to be the key stakeholder on the nuclear negotiations; it was the host to the multilateral nuclear consortium (known as the “Six-Party Talks”) to persuade North Korea to renounce nuclear weapons. Pundits have largely attributed it to the ongoing trade war China has been engaging with the U.S., namely, China is preoccupied with a more immediate and urgent issue at hand. That seems to serve as a sound explanation. The speaker, however, sees that there is a more strategic reason behind China’s “silence.” He will deal with this matter and other latest China-North Korea intrigue.

About the Speaker: Dr. Lee Seong-hyon

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