05:49 GMT06 April 2020
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    China's influence in North Korea remains strong, however, it does not mean that Beijing is eager to render economic assistance to Pyongyang in violation of the UN sanctions regime, analysts told Sputnik, commenting on a Japanese media story about purported secret talks between the Chinese and North Korean leaders.

    China could lend a helping hand to North Korea, but only in case it does not violate the UN-imposed sanctions regime, Da Zhigang, director of the Institute of Northeast Asia under the Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, told Sputnik China.

    "Let's presume that traditional mechanisms of friendship and dialogue between China and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) have been restored," Da said. "Let's imagine that the talks on the Korean Peninsula's denuclearization at bilateral and multilateral levels, including the inter-Korean summit and the US-North Korean summit, have increased mutual trust. However, if one talks about the possible Chinese assistance to the DPRK denuclearization efforts including the provision of economic aid, [one should take into consideration that] the UN sanctions against the DPRK, which were introduced by approximately 10 different resolutions, still operate."

    The Chinese scholar suggested that Beijing may render assistance to Pyongyang in spheres not covered by UN sanctions; for instance, China may provide North Korea with humanitarian aid. He admitted that it takes a lot of effort on the part of North Korea to overcome the stalemate prompted by the sanctions regime. Thus, it has taken steps toward Seoul counting on limited aid from South Korea.

    However, Da emphasized that the US, South Korea and Japan are still interested in maintaining sanctions against Pyongyang.

    "I believe that we must wait for the results of the US-North Korean summit on June 12, and then return to the discussion of the matter," he opined. "Personally, I believe that the US-North Korean talks undoubtedly have the potential to be productive."

    Da's comment comes as a response to a Japan News story that Beijing promised Pyongyang economic assistance ahead of complete denuclearization. Citing a "knowledgeable source" the media outlet claimed that Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to help Kim Jong-un "even in the intermediate stages of the denuclearization process" in case "North Korea had reached an agreement with the United States on denuclearization."

    According to Konstantin Asmolov, a research fellow at the Center for Korean Studies of the Institute for Far Eastern Studies, one should take the Japanese media outlet's story with a grain of salt.

    "If aid was really promised, it was most likely China's counter-reaction to the US vow to give North Korea something in exchange for its disarmament," the researcher suggested.

    He underscored that North Korea remains in the sphere of Chinese interests. While Pyongyang set a course of overcoming international isolation a few months ago, Beijing stepped in and has started to play an active and independent role in this process. The researcher pointed out that ahead of the historical meeting between the South and North Korean leaders, Kim Jong-un visited Beijing. Additionally, ahead of the upcoming US-North Korean summit, Kim made his second visit to China.

    In any event, China would not agree to play a second fiddle when it comes to providing Pyongyang with economic aid, the scholar opined. Moreover, the promise of support could push Kim towards more bold and decisive actions in bringing the country's nuclear missile program to an end.

    Meanwhile, on May 15, 38 North, a US monitoring group, reported that North Korea had begun the dismantlement of its Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site in the northeast of the country, presenting commercial satellite imagery from May 7.

    "Several key operational support buildings, located just outside the North, West and South Portals, have been razed since our last analysis," the group stated. "Some of the rails for the mining carts, which had led from the tunnels to their respective spoil piles, have apparently been removed. Additionally, some carts seem to have been tipped over and/or disassembled, and several small sheds/outbuildings around the site had been removed."

    For their part, official North Korean sources announced that ​​a ceremony on May 23-25 would mark the complete destruction of the site.

    The views and opinions expressed by the speakers do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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