China on Tuesday refuted reports that President Xi Jinping’s sudden move to make a rare visit to North Korea this week was aimed at using Beijing’s close ties with Pyongyang as a “leverage” to deal with his US counterpart Donald Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on more Chinese imports.
China on Monday announced that President Xi would make his maiden visit to Pyongyang on Thursday – the first by a Chinese leader in 14 years – in a big boost to the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who is under heavy pressure from the US to give up nuclear weapons programme.
The sudden announcement of Xi’s visit to Pyongyang ahead of his much-speculated meeting with Trump at the G-20 summit in Osaka on June 28-29 led to speculation that he wants to flaunt Beijing’s importance in any future deal between US and North Korea over denuclearisation.
Answering a spate of questions over Xi’s visit to North Korea, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang denied that the trip was aimed at using Beijing-Pyongyang close ties as leverage in China-US trade talks.
China is under pressure as Trump, who had imposed additional tariffs on USD 250 billion worth of Chinese imported goods, threatened to impose tariffs on the remaining USD 300 billion Chinese imports if no deal worked out in his likely meeting with Xi at Osaka.
“You said ‘China may use this visit as leverage on US’. I shall say certain people with such thinking may over interpret that,” Lu said.
“China and DPRK (North Korea) are close neighbours enjoying the friendly relations. The two countries always maintained good exchanges. We hope you can get clear idea about this visit and our firm determination to develop friendly ties with DPRK and do not make unnecessary links or connections,” Lu said.