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China Urges U.S. And North Korea To Not Give Up On A Summit


China is responding today to President Trump's decision to pull out of the first-ever presidential summit between the U.S. and North Korea. China's been pushing the two countries for years to hold direct talks, and today it insisted that it's going to keep trying. NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from Beijing.

ANTHONY KUHN, BYLINE: At a routine press briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang noted that both Washington and Pyongyang are leaving options open to go ahead with the summit.


LU KANG: (Foreign language spoken).

KUHN: "We strongly hope that North Korea and the U.S. will cherish the recent positive progress," he said, "stay patient, demonstrate goodwill and stay committed to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula." Lu added that China's position in favor of negotiations and nuclear disarmament hasn't wavered for years. Zhao Chu, a Shanghai-based independent analyst, says China's bottom line that it doesn't want war or instability on its doorstep remains unchanged. And he says despite President Trump's pullout, things still look better than late last year when Washington and Pyongyang were exchanging military threats. Given the two sides' long history of mistrust, he adds, the pullout is hardly surprising.

ZHAO CHU: (Foreign language spoken).

KUHN: "Although this is a big setback after several rounds of diplomatic progress," he says, "the positive results of all that diplomacy are still there." One such result is direct diplomacy between Pyongyang and Washington. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has now been to Pyongyang twice. President Trump remarked, though, that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un seemed to turn hostile only after he had met with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. Zhao Chu sees this as a bargaining tactic and a move by Trump to drive a wedge between Beijing and Pyongyang.

ZHAO: (Foreign language spoken).

KUHN: "I think this is a tactic designed to put pressure on China," he says, "to help the U.S. with sanctions on and negotiations with North Korea." Zhao adds that the past three months of diplomacy have paid off for both the U.S. and North Korea. The U.S. got three detained Americans back, and the North demolished its only nuclear test site. Kim Jong Un, meanwhile, scored some public relations points by showing off his moves as a diplomat and statesman. These items, Zhao argues, were just the low-hanging fruit. The goal of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula remains, just as it was before, a remote possibility.

Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Beijing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Anthony Kuhn is NPR's correspondent based in Seoul, South Korea, reporting on the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and the great diversity of Asia's countries and cultures. Before moving to Seoul in 2018, he traveled to the region to cover major stories including the North Korean nuclear crisis and the Fukushima earthquake and nuclear disaster.