China-North Korea Intrigue under Xi Jinping and Kim Jong-un

Lee Seong-hyonIn the wake of his initial meeting with President Donald J. Trump, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un revealed that he would prepare for the forthcoming second summit meeting by approaching denuclearization negotiation through “joint research and fine-tuning” with “China.”

Western observers did not fully appreciate the significance of this wording, according to Lee Seong-hyon, director of the Center for Chinese Studies at the Sejong Institute in Seoul. It would mean that even if Xi were not present at the Trump–Kim summit, Kim’s demands at the negotiation table with Trump would reflect Xi’s will as well, says Lee, who will deliver a lecture sponsored by the Center for Chinese Studies and the Center for Korean Studies on Friday, March 8, 2019.

In his New Year address, Kim issued a veiled warning to the United States: “If the U.S. doesn’t keep the promise it made in front of the world and misjudges the North Korean people’s patience, imposes unilateral concessions and continues with sanctions and pressure, we also don’t have any other choice but to explore a new path.”

Many experts interpreted Kim’s “new path” as North Korea returning to missile launches and nuclear tests, but Lee argues that the “new path” Kim meant was to align North Korea closer to China.

Lee’s lecture, titled “The China-North Korea Intrigue under Xi Jinping and Kim Jong-un: A Marriage of Convenience or a New Strategic Partnership?,” will take place at 12 noon in Moore Hall 109, 1890 East-West Road, on the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa campus.

Lee Seong-hyon is a graduate of Grinnell College, Harvard University, and Tsinghua University, where he earned his Ph.D. in political communication. He was the 2013–14 Pantech Fellow at Stanford University and is currently a senior fellow (nonresident) at the Center for Korean Peninsula Studies at Peking University. Lee has written extensively on the relations between the United States, China, and Korea. His comments and columns have appeared in many media, including CNN, the BBC, the New York Times, Washington Post, Al Jazeera, Foreign Policy, China’s CCTV, and Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV. He writes bi-weekly columns for The Korea Times. He lived in Beijing for eleven years. His research interests include China–U.S.–North Korea Relations, U.S.–China Relations, Sino–North Korea Relations, and Chinese Press and Foreign Policy.

This event is free and open to the university community and the public. For further information contact the Center for Chinese Studies (

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