Open Forum

Exchanges of visits between Chinese and DPRK leaders and high-level delegations have been relatively rare since the end of the Cold War. However, meetings between leaders saw three abnormal peaks in 1999-2001, 2010-2012, and 2018-2019. If after the Cold War the bilateral relationship cooled, room was left for China’s leaders to respond to changes in the Sino-US relationship, which repeatedly proved to be the major external factor affecting China-DPRK ties. When conflicts arose between China and the United States, the relationship between China and the DPRK would grow closer; when China and the United States were friendly to each other, China-DPRK relations would be alienated. Not only have there been three spikes in interactions, the degree of closeness has grown from one spike to another. Given factors identified below, there is reason to surmise that the recent peak in leadership communications represents a point of no return, making it unlikely that another deep trough in ties lies ahead, although the year 2020 has seen both Beijing and Pyongyang close their borders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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