Xi Jinping Arrives in North Korea, With Many Eyes on Trump – The New York Times

Two years ago, as Mr. Kim fired a series of intercontinental ballistic missiles and China urged caution, the North hurled invective at Beijing, saying its state-run media was making “absurd and reckless remarks” that made the situation worse.

Mr. Xi’s decision to go to Pyongyang did not signal a new warmth, said Andrei Lankov, a North Korea scholar. Rather, Mr. Xi — in a corner over his stalemate in trade talks with the Trump administration — could see the possibility of playing the middle man between Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump, he said.

The contents of Mr. Xi’s “grand plan” are not clear, Mr. Lankov said. But as a first step, he said, Mr. Xi will probably try to forge a compromise that would allow Mr. Trump to step back from his demand that Mr. Kim surrender his nuclear arsenal.

“He would want Trump to see a compromise as a first step on the road to denuclearization,” Mr. Lankov said.

Offering economic help to Mr. Kim would not be difficult for Mr. Xi, whose country accounts for much of North Korea’s trade. But it would stop short of what the North Korean leader wants, which is for China to use its power at the United Nations to reverse the sanctions that are pummeling his country’s economy.

China is not prepared to do that, Mr. Lankov said. Instead, he said, Mr. Xi is likely to encourage Chinese businessmen, particularly those along the border, to increase trade with the North off the books.

He also said Mr. Xi was likely to offer humanitarian assistance, in the form of grain shipments, to help stave off what the World Food Program recently called serious food shortages in the North Korean countryside.


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