China Says Kim Jong Un's Concerns With U.S. 'Should Be Valued' by Biden

China has called on U.S. President Joe Biden to bear in mind North Korea's issues with the United States' policy toward the country after Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un announced he was prepared for either diplomacy or conflict.

With the prospective peace process pursued by the previous U.S. administration and its South Korean counterpart having all but collapsed as North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), retreated from the frozen framework, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told a press conference Friday that "the situation on the Korean Peninsula is at a critical stage" and urged for stakeholder nations to step up to ease tensions.

"All relevant sides should jointly safeguard stability and promote dialogue," Zhao said. "The legitimate and reasonable concerns of the DPRK side should be valued and accommodated."

He said Beijing hoped all powers involved, especially Pyongyang and Washington, should aspire for a lasting, practical solution as North Korea clung to nuclear weapons it still felt necessary to ensure its survival.

"We encourage all sides to be actively committed to the two major goals of the establishment of a peace mechanism on the peninsula and denuclearization of the peninsula, and work out a feasible roadmap for that," Zhao said. "We hope the DPRK and the U.S. can meet each other halfway, earnestly accommodate each other's legitimate concerns on the basis of mutual respect and promote the political settlement of the peninsula issue."

The remarks came a day after news emerged from North Korea of Kim's latest comments that emerged out of the third plenary meeting of the 8th Central Committee of his ruling Korean Workers' Party (WPK). The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Thursday that Kim had "made detailed analysis of the policy tendency of the newly emerged U.S. administration toward our Republic and clarified appropriate strategic and tactical counteraction and the direction of activities to be maintained in the relations with the U.S. in the days ahead."

"The General Secretary stressed the need to get prepared for both dialogue and confrontation," the report said, "especially to get fully prepared for confrontation in order to protect the dignity of our state and its interests for independent development and to reliably guarantee the peaceful environment and the security of our state."

The ruler also saw emphasized a need to improve his elusive nation's overall relations with the world.

"Clarifying the foreign policy stand and principles of the WPK and the DPRK government concerning the important international and regional matters and stressing the need to further enhance the strategic position and active role of our state and create favorable external climate on our own initiatives," the report said, "the General Secretary called for sharply and promptly reacting to and coping with the fast-changing situation and concentrating efforts on taking stable control of the situation on the Korean peninsula."

President, Xi, Jinping, meets, Supreme, Leader, Kim
Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, sits down with North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un for talks during their fourth and last encounter on June 21, 2019 at the Kumsusan State Guest House in Pyongyang. The visit came days Kim met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and then-U.S. President Donald Trump at the inter-Korean border for a last-ditch effort to revitalize a peace process that would later fall apart as working-level talks stalled, resulting in a return of tensions to the Korean Peninsula. Korean Central News Agency

While Kim has so far shunned contact with the new U.S. administration until the country's overturned its "hostile policy" of sanctions and political pressure, his latest language appeared for the first time to somewhat mirror that of Biden and his own team.

Discussing North Korea at his first presidential press conference, Biden said in March that if North Korea should "choose to escalate, we will respond accordingly," but was "also prepared for some form of diplomacy" as long as it was "conditioned upon the end result of denuclearization." In late April, he said he would approach North Korea—along with Iran—as one of "diplomacy, as well as stern deterrence."

Days later, White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced that the administration had completed its review of North Korea policy and offered a brief summary. She said the "goal remains the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, with the clear understanding that the efforts of the past four administrations have not achieved this objective."

"Our policy will not focus on achieving a grand bargain, nor will it rely on strategic patience," Psaki said at the time. "Our policy calls for a calibrated, practical approach that is open to and willing to explore diplomacy with the DPRK and to make practical progress that increases the security of the United States, our allies and deployed forces."

She also emphasized the focus on coordination with such allies, especially South Korea—officially the Republic of Korea—and Japan, whose leaders Biden has since received at the White House in talks that included North Korea strategy. Washington's language toward Pyongyang has remained largely the same since these meetings and both sides appear to view the ball as being in the other's court, leaving no clear path forward.

But the U.S. has also sought to engage China on the issue in hopes of making headway. Despite the intensifying rivalry between Washington and Beijing, the Biden administration has emphasized that the Korean Peninsula was one of a select number of issues that the two countries could and should cooperate on, and this point was emphasized in Secretary of State Antony Blinken's call last week with Chinese Communist Party Central Foreign Affairs Commission Director Yang Jiechi.

Among other key topics, the two men "discussed the United States' comprehensive DPRK policy review, focusing on the need for the United States and the PRC to work together for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," according to a State Department readout referring to China by the acronym for its official diplomatic title, the People's Republic of China.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry's readout made no specific mention of the Korean Peninsula, instead focusing on efforts to counter U.S. messaging on Taiwan, the origins of COVID-19 and alleged human rights violations committed by China and emphasizing the need for stronger common multilateral and bilateral initiatives by the two countries. They "also exchanged views on other issues of common concern," according to the Chinese side.

Days earlier, Beijing engaged another concerned country as Special Representative on Korean Peninsula Affairs Liu Xiaoming discussed the Korean Peninsula with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov. Both sides emphasized a need for stronger cooperation on the subject, bringing together two nations who once supported North Korea against U.S.-backed South Korea in a mid-20th-century war that today remains officially unresolved.

Following this message and a joint commitment of solidarity expressed between North Korea's new ambassador to China and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi before it, Kim sent a personal message to Russian President Vladimir Putin on the occasion of Russia's National Day.

"It is the aspiration and desire common to the peoples of the two countries to value and further develop the friendly DPRK-Russia relations with a long history and traditions as required by the new times," Kim was cited as saying in the note, describing "a new stage of development" of ties between the two countries since the two leaders met in April 2019.

The State Department declined to comment when reporters asked if North Korea would be on the agenda ahead of Biden's own summit with Putin on Wednesday and no language on the issue was released by either side.

With diplomacy at a standstill, Biden's special representative for North Korea Sung Kim was set to head Saturday to South Korea. Once there, he was set to meet with South Korean Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Noh Kyu-duk and Japanese Director-General for Asian and Oceanian Affairs Funakoshi Takehiro and "meet with other senior ROK officials and engage members of academia and civil society to discuss the outcomes of the United States' DPRK policy review."

Kim, Jong, Un, 3rd, Meeting, 8th, Committee
North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un presides over the third plenary meeting of the Eighth Central Committee of the Korean Workers' Party on June 17. "All the participants in the meeting took a firm pledge to thoroughly implement the important policies discussed and decided at the plenary meeting," state-run KCNA reported. Korean Central News Agency

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