Xi Speaks To Biden, Nods And Winks At Kim

By | November 20, 2022 | No Comments

The last time North Korea conducted a nuclear test, China showed itself willing to cooperate with the United States in seeing an additional round of sanctions imposed on Pyongyang at the UN. Yet according to one South Korean scholar whose views on China’s policies toward the Korean Peninsula are frequently cited in both English- and Korean-language media, Beijing may be implicitly signaling to the DPRK an implicit Chinese blessing for a seventh nuclear detonation. 


“North Korea has reasonable fears” says Xi Jinping to South Korea and US, green lighting renewed provocations[1]


Analysts believe North Korea’s resumption of ballistic missile provocations on November 17th is because of the “vague position” of North Korea’s ally China toward the North Korean nuclear issue in light of Chairman Xi Jinping’s consecutive meetings with South Korean and US leaders. 

According to the ROK Joint Staff, North Korea launched a short-range ballistic missile into the East Sea on the 17th at around 10:48 a.m. in the vicinity of Wonsan, Kangwon Province. This is the latest missile provocation in eight days following a missile launch on the 9th. 

Ahead of this most recent launch, on November 13th, the North Korean government issued a statement attributed to North Korean foreign minister Choe Son Hui slamming Japan, South Korea and the US’s agreement to expand defense cooperation following their trilateral summit.

In particular, in response to US President Joe Biden’s affirmation of the Washington’s “ironclad” commitment to Japan and South Korea’s defense as well as reaffirmation of its commitment to extended deterrence, Choe warned that “North Korea’s military response will be vehement”. 

Analysts say the reason why North Korea allowed for a time lapse between the Japan-ROK-US trilateral summit and its issuing of an official statement was because of the need to gauge Chinese leader’s Xi Jinping’s position. 

Xi stated his country’s extant position on the North Korean nuclear issue during his first face-to-face meeting with Joe Biden [in their respective roles as heads of state – ed.] on the 14th, asserting that “North Korea has reasonable fears.” 

Speaking on Pyongyang’s behalf, he insisted that it was because of security threats to the US that North Korea had been engaging in nuclear and missile development.

Xi also stated at the China-South Korea summit a day afterward that while “China will play a constructive role in the North Korean nuclear issue” he “hope[d] South Korea will actively work to improve inter-Korean ties.” 

Xi’s statement can be seen as blaming not the DPRK, but South Korea for the current state of affairs in inter-Korean ties. North Korea also recently continued to insist that it is because of ROK-US combined exercises, not the DPRK’s provocations, that are to blame for the heightening of military tensions on the Korean Peninsula. 

North Korea has resumed test launches of ICBMs for the first time in five years, and each missile test and the mobilization of fighter jets represent an increase in both the level and frequency of military provocations. Furthermore, North Korea is currently prepared to carry out a seventh nuclear test, with only Kim Jong Un’s political decision remaining to be seen. 

According to Park Won-gon of Ewha Womans University, “In Xi’s official speech, he stated ‘North Korea has a reasonable fear’, which is also a ‘green light’ for a seventh nuclear test, while stating that China “has not stated anything (about taking a forward-looking approach).”


Original article published by Donga Ilbo. Translated by Anthony V. Rinna.


[1] Source: “North Korea has reasonable fears” says Xi Jinping to South Korea and US, ‘greenlighting’ renewed provocations [시진핑, 미중 회담서 “北 합리적 우려”… 도발 재개에 ‘그린라이트’], Donga Ilbo, November 18, 2022, https://www.donga.com/news/Politics/article/all/20221118/116539999/1


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