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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 September 2018

China welcomes Trump-Kim summit, calls for sanctions relief

Beijing praised the political resolve of the two leaders

North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un (R) walks with US President Donald Trump (L) during a break in talks at their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12, 2018. Saul Loeb / AFP
North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un (R) walks with US President Donald Trump (L) during a break in talks at their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12, 2018. Saul Loeb / AFP

China has warmly welcomed the historic summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore in what was viewed as a breakthrough after decades of acrimony between the two historic foes.

Beijing's foreign ministry said on Tuesday that it will continue to dedicate itself to establishing a peace mechanism for the Korean peninsula.

China highly praised the political resolve of the leaders of North Korea and the United States, the ministry said in a statement on its website.

The extraordinary and unprecedented encounter in Singapore saw the leader of the world's most powerful democracy shake hands with the third generation leader of a dynastic dictatorship.

Kim agreed to the “complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula”, while Trump said the US would halt military exercises with Seoul – something long sought by Pyongyang, which claims the drills are a provocation that threatens war.

It suggested Tuesday that the UN Security Council consider suspending or lifting sanctions against North Korea in reaction to the summit’s outcome, if the country is in compliance with UN resolutions and delivers progress in diplomatic negotiations.

Hours after talks between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump in the Southeast Asian city-state, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the Security Council's sanctions against North Korea were designed to be adjusted and could be suspended or lifted in accordance with the North's actions.

The Security Council could consider loosening or lifting sanctions on North Korea "in accordance with the compliance of the (North Korean) side and the development of the situation," Geng said at a daily briefing in Beijing.

“Sanctions are not an end,” he said. “We believe the Security Council should make efforts to support the diplomatic efforts at the present time.”

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The Chinese position echoes comments made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who called for a lifting of sanctions during a May visit to Pyongyang, North Korea's capital. US officials believe that harsh sanctions have been instrumental in the "maximum pressure campaign" to bring Kim to the negotiating table.

Trump ruled out immediate sanctions relief for North Korea after his meeting with Kim, saying it would come “when we are sure that the nukes are no longer a factor.”

China, North Korea's main ally, accounts for more than 90 per cent of the isolated country's trade, and China's participation is widely seen as crucial for international sanctions to have any bite. Bilateral trade has plunged in recent months as China ratcheted up enforcement of the increasingly tough restrictions ordered over the North's missile and nuclear weapons tests.

In the past, China has been accused of skirting sanctions to prop up the North Korean government – an accusation it vigorously denies. Geng said Tuesday that China has been following the UN sanctions resolutions "comprehensively, accurately and strictly."

But Trump suggested that China has already been relaxing trade controls.

“Over the last two months the border is more open than it was when we first started,” Trump told reporters in Singapore.

With reporting contributed by the Associated Press.

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