Xi offers Kim aid ahead of complete denuclearization

By Takayuki Nakagawa and Kentaro Nakajima / Yomiuri Shimbun CorrespondentsSEOUL/SHENYANG, China — Chinese President Xi Jinping told North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that it was possible for China to provide economic assistance to North Korea even in the intermediate stages of the denuclearization process, if North Korea had reached an agreement with the United States on denuclearization, according to a knowledgeable source.

During Xi and Kim’s meeting in Dalian, China, on May 7 and 8, Kim sounded Xi out regarding the possibility that North Korea could receive economic support from China during the denuclearization process, according to the source.

Xi replied that if the United States and North Korea reach a consensus on denuclearization, it would be possible to provide economic assistance to North Korea in phases.

Kim expressed concern, telling Xi that the United States has said it will provide economic assistance to North Korea after Pyongyang completes denuclearization, but that he cannot trust it will keep that promise. Kim then asked Xi for China’s economic assistance during the intermediate stages of denuclearization if North Korea reaches a comprehensive agreement with the United States.

Xi responded that the United States and North Korea should reach a comprehensive agreement on denuclearization, asking Kim to give top priority to that agreement.

The Chinese leader also told Kim that if Pyongyang reaches an agreement with Washington and makes concrete progress on denuclearization, there would be good cause for China to support North Korea, the source said.

According to the source, the United States and North Korea have had different opinions in their closed-door negotiations regarding the timing for the completion of denuclearization and the method of verification.

Kim expects large-scale economic assistance in return for denuclearization and is strongly dissatisfied with the U.S. stance that it will not provide any form of economic assistance until North Korea achieves complete denuclearization.

The schedule of the June 12 U.S.-North Korea summit meeting was announced after Kim met U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Pyongyang on Wednesday, a day after Kim’s visit to China.

The United States and North Korea are said to have shared, to a certain extent, an interpretation of denuclearization during the Pompeo-Kim meeting. The fact that Kim could draw positive comments from Xi regarding China’s economic assistance may have led to Kim’s judgement on denuclearization.

China accounts for 90 percent of North Korea’s trade and thus has significant influence on Pyongyang. The actual situation of economic exchange between China and North Korea is unclear, and China is believed to be able to provide substantial economic assistance to North Korea even under U.N. sanctions.Speech

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