Biden Seeks Xi's Help with North Korea's Nuclear Weapons, China Asks U.S. to Hear Kim Out

China has advised the United States to listen to North Korea and its grievances at a time when the leaders of the two allied Asian neighbors are emphasizing the growing ties between their nations.

As President Joe Biden configures his approach to the nuclear-armed nation, his administration is seeking China's help in resolving the ongoing issue on the Korean Peninsula.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry published a readout Tuesday of a July 6 telephone conversation between the Chinese government's special representative on Korean Peninsula Affairs, Liu Xiaoming, and U.S. special representative for North Korea Sung Kim.

"Liu stated China's stance on issues of the Korean Peninsula and expressed his views on the US' policy review on the DPRK," the readout stated, using an acronym for North Korea's official title, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

South Korea, for its part, is officially known as the Republic of Korea.

Liu also "stressed the importance of the dual-track approach and the phased and synchronized principle in promoting the political settlement of the Peninsula issues," and "called on the US take seriously and address the DPRK's legitimate and reasonable concerns, and support the DPRK-ROK reconciliation and cooperation," according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

China's readout also summed up Sung Kim's comments.

"Sung Kim stated that the US is committed to a diplomatic resolution of the Peninsula issues, and hopes dialogue and contact with the DPRK will be restored as soon as possible," the Chinese Foreign Ministry said. "Kim indicated that the US supports the efforts of the DPRK and the ROK to improve relations."

"They agreed to keep contact," it concluded.

The contents of the readout were echoed in tweets posted by Liu himself, who added that it was a "pleasure" to speak with his U.S. counterpart on the issue.

The U.S. side has yet to release a readout of its own, and a State Department spokesperson did not have one to share when contacted by Newsweek, but expounded on the U.S. strategy in discussing North Korea with China.

"Our policy calls for a calibrated, practical approach that is open to and will explore diplomacy with the DPRK to make practical progress that increases the security of the United States, our allies and our deployed forces," the spokesperson said. "The United States and the PRC need to work together for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."

Kim, Jong, Un, hosts, Xi, Jinping, 2019
North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un speaks with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a luncheon event also including Kim's wife, Ri Sol Ju, and Xi's wife, Peng Liyuan, in Pyongyang on June 22, 2019. China has "called on the US to take seriously and address the DPRK's legitimate and reasonable concerns, and support the DPRK-ROK reconciliation and cooperation." Korean Central News Agency

The contact comes amid a renewed focus on Sino-North Korean ties, and less than a week after North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un reached out to Chinese President Xi Jinping to express congratulations on the July 1 centenary of the ruling Communist Party of China.

His flowery message recalled the bonds forged by the two communist countries over more than seven decades. It also touched upon the pressure both Beijing and Pyongyang have come under in the modern era, as the U.S. and Western powers seek to disarm North Korea's nuclear weapons and curb China's rise to global leadership.

"Noting that the CPC and the Chinese people have entered a new historic course for comprehensively building a modern socialist state under the uplifted banner of the socialist idea peculiar to China in the new era," the official Korean Central News Agency reported, "the message said that hostile forces' vicious slander and all-round pressure upon the CPC are no more than a last-ditch attempt and they can never check the on-going advance of the Chinese people, rallied close around General Secretary Xi Jinping, toward a fresh victory."

The message also discussed a "complicated international situation" that would not slow the prospering "militant friendship and bonds of kinship" established by Kim Jong Un's Workers' Party of Korea and Xi's Communist Party of China.

"The WPK and the CPC are the true comrades and the comrades-in-arms that have shared life and death in the protracted struggle for opposing imperialism and building socialism, writing the proud history of friendship, the message pointed out," the Korean Central News Agency wrote.

Last month, Liu also discussed North Korea with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov in a telephone conversation in which both sides affirmed a mutual interest in collaborating on issues relating to the Korean Peninsula, where they share a history.

The Chinese Communist Party took power about a year after the Soviet Union helped establish North Korea, then led by Kim Jong Un's grandfather, Kim Il Sung, in 1948. When North Korea went to war with rival, U.S.-backed South Korea from 1950 to 1953, Moscow offered assistance to Pyongyang and Beijing sent millions of troops and volunteer militia that ultimately helped bring the battle to a stalemate that still stands today.

The Cold War continued across the globe after the conflict, and China and North Korea eventually established the Sino-North Korean Mutual Aid and Cooperation Friendship Treaty in July 1961. In less than a week from today, both countries prepare to celebrate the 60th anniversary of what remains the only defense agreement either side has with another country.

The deal was also referenced earlier this year when Xi and Kim Jong Un exchanged messages via their respective representatives to shore up bilateral ties in March.

A month later, in April, President Joe Biden's administration concluded a review of U.S. policy toward North Korea, with which former President Donald Trump engaged with unprecedented diplomacy that included three meetings with Kim Jong Un in hopes of achieving peace in exchange for denuclearization and sanctions relief.

Biden has left the door open for talks, but has said any negotiations would have to be matched with actions taken to ensure North Korea dismantled its nuclear weapons program and that any provocations would be met with a response.

Last month, Kim Jong Un said his government was prepared for either diplomacy or confrontation with the Biden administration.

While the North Korean ruler has emphasized a need to expand his country's international relations since the 8th Party Congress held in January, he has also increasingly focused on attempting to stabilize the country's economic situation in the face of severe setbacks amplified by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and recent floods that threaten to cause famine.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin declined to disclose last week whether or not Beijing had provided Pyongyang with COVID-19 vaccines, as North Korea remains one of just five countries in the world to have reported zero infections. He did, however, emphasize that "China and the DPRK are friendly neighbors linked by mountains and rivers," and said Beijing stood ready to consider offering aid, if needed.

"China and the DPRK have a long tradition of mutual assistance in times of need," Wang said. "China stands ready to positively consider providing help to the DPRK should there be such a need."

Like Trump and other presidents before him, the Biden administration has sought to leverage China's influence on North Korea to work toward a settlement to the long-running nuclear standoff. The issue is one of the few in which both Washington and Beijing have signaled potential cooperation as their broader rivalry intensified in recent years.

Referring to "the DPRK's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile weapons" on Tuesday, State Department spokesperson Ned Price told a daily press briefing that "these are not challenges we can take on alone, that we can address alone."

He too said China along with regional U.S. allies like South Korea and Japan, would need to be involved in bringing lasting peace to the Korean Peninsula.

"We still need to work in lockstep with our allies, China has a role to play as well and obviously has influence with the DPRK regime," Price added.