Chinese President Xi Jinping embarks on a historic visit of North Korea on Thursday. The first visit since 2005 by a top Chinese leader to the country has the international community watching intently.
This is a big event on China-North Korea relations. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has visited China four times since last year. Xi’s return visit makes bilateral ties robust at the highest levels.
The traditional China-North Korea friendship has stood the test of time and transformed into a strategic asset for the two countries. China and North Korea are comrades, close neighbors, and good partners. This is a strategic choice made by the two sides based on history and reality, the international and regional situation and China-North Korea relations as a whole.
The traditional friendly relations between the countries also help consolidate peace and stability in Northeast Asia, and continuously provide impetus for solving the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue. Take the two North Korea-US summits as an example. In terms of travel, China provided the North Korean leader the means of transportation and railway passage. The strategic trust between the two countries has always been a key source of confidence in attempts to resolve the Peninsula standoff.
The outside world often misinterprets top-level exchanges between China and North Korea. The perception is driven partly by ideological bias and partly by a narrow geopolitical perspective.
Some elites in the US and South Korea are naturally wary of high-level exchanges between China and North Korea. A large part of this is a misunderstanding of the basic fact that China has a stake in the Korean Peninsula issue, and driven by some selfish considerations. Such people hope that China shouldn’t be involved in the formulation of the roadmap for resolving the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue. At the same time they hope that China will fully cooperate and push forward Washington’s plans, actively responding to those plans even if they contradict China’s interests.
There are some Americans who always suspect that China is playing the North Korea card amid the trade war. They are too sensitive and measuring others on their own terms.
The friendship between China and North Korea is built upon long-term strategic interests of both sides, rather than on a calculation to solve one specific problem.
On the whole, the Korean Peninsula problem is thorny and the international environment has become increasingly complex, which adds many unfavorable parameters to China-North Korea cooperation. Addressing these issues is a big deal for both countries. China and North Korea should not only open up new areas of bilateral cooperation, but also work together for a settlement of the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue so as to create greater space for the continuous progress of ties. This will test the courage and wisdom of both countries and come out with flying colors in the test of history.