08:00 GMT +324 October 2018
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    People bicycle past a giant TV screen broadcasting the meeting of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Chinese President Xi Jinping during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Tuesday, June 19, 2018

    Beijing Won't Allow Pyongyang to 'Drift Away' Toward Washington – Korea Analyst

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    North Korean officials arrived in China this wee to hold high-level talks on the DPRK's exit from international isolation in Beijing, just days ahead of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's July 5 visit to Pyongyang. Speaking to Sputnik, Korea analysts outlined why Beijing is so eager to strengthen long-term economic cooperation with its neighbor.

    North Korean Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Ku Bon-tae touched down in Beijing Monday for talks on expanding bilateral economic cooperation, which are expected to include discussions on agriculture, rail and electricity networks, as well as development assistance. The visit came less than two weeks after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held talks with Xi Jinping in Beijing.

    The economic delegation's visit, ahead of Pompeo's visit to Pyongyang on Thursday, is in line with the pattern of meetings between high level North Korean and Chinese officials ahead of both the inter-Korean summit in April and last month's Kim-Trump summit.

    This is not the first time that China has successfully and proactively worked in its diplomacy on the Korean peninsula, Russian Institute of the Far East fellow Konstantin Asmolov explained. China, he said, cannot allow Pyongyang to 'drift away' in America's direction, and is looking to present itself as North Korea's "best friend."

    "Mike Pompeo will also possibly try to negotiate with Pyongyang, to offer some sort of arrangements related to economic development. Therefore, in all probability, the North Korean delegation in Beijing is trying to understand what China has to offer them. What is clear is that Pyongyang expects China's proposals to be better than those of the Americans. At the same time, they know and appreciate their experience of economic cooperation with both Russia and China," Asmolov said.

    In this image released by the White House, then-CIA director Mike Pompeo shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang, North Korea, during a 2018 East weekend trip.
    © AP Photo / White House
    In this image released by the White House, then-CIA director Mike Pompeo shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang, North Korea, during a 2018 East weekend trip.

    Lu Chao, the head of the Center for DPRK-ROK Studies at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, told Sputnik that Pyongyang has clearly recognized the need for Chinese support in reorienting its economic development strategy. Beijing, he noted, has consistently encouraged its neighbor to do so, and to change North Korean behavior through trade and economic incentives. With Pyongyang signaling its intention to refrain from nuclear provocations, the ideal moment for such cooperation has arrived, according to Lu.

    "Kim Jong-un has already visited China three times this year. On Sunday and Monday, he visited a Sino-Korean special economic cooperation zone in North Pyongan province. He also inspected a cosmetics factory in the special administrative region of Sinuiju, on the border with China. It can be seen that Pyongyang has the will to further strengthen economic cooperation with China," the scholar explained.

    As far as China is concerned, Lu stressed that Beijing can only welcome Pyongyang's strategic about-face in favor of economic development. "China and the DPRK are friendly neighbors. It goes without saying that China will fully support North Korea's economic development."

    North Korea's diplomats are working on creating a mechanism to remove UN sanctions, and it's likely that the subject was broached during the North Korean delegation's latest visit to Beijing. Pyongyang hopes it can count on China lobbying to remove sanctions and provide development assistance and economic investment, but will also have to convince Washington regarding its commitment to abandon its nuclear program.

    The easing of tensions on the Korean peninsula has prompted a revival of discussions on a number of regional economic projects, including initiatives between the Koreas, but also North Korea and China, and Pyongyang and Moscow.

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    Tags:
    economic strategy, economic development, economy, cooperation, Mike Pompeo, Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK), China, United States
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