A few days ago, China's Global Times said in an article justifying Beijing's engagement with Pyongyang ahead of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's summit with US President Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12.
Nullifying the claim that China was engaging with North Korea more at this moment out of fear of getting sidelined in a US-initiated peace process, it said Beijing was doing so because of its own importance. It said one of the reasons that made it important is the unpredictability of Trump which could lead to a vacuum in the Korean peace process any time and create an opportunity for China to fill.
Chinese and Iranian foreign ministers meet in Beijing
That the Chinese media's assessment was not entirely wrong was proved again on Sunday, May 13, when the foreign ministers of China and Iran met each other in Beijing. The Chinese diplomat, Wang Yi, committed China to multilateralism and maintaining international agreements during his talks to his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif, the Global Times said, signifying China's stance in the wake of the US's withdrawal from a crucial nuclear deal with Iran on May 8.
Wang said on the occasion that the Iranian accord reached during the time of former US president Barack Obama was a "hard-earned result of multilateralism" which helped maintain international non-proliferation and give peace and stability a chance in West Asia, China Central Television reported, according to Global Times.
Zarif was visiting China, Russia and some European countries to share and exchange views on the Iran pact issue. China is part of the multilateral deal which the international community made with Iran in 2015.
Zarif said that Tehran also treats the issue of development of friendship with Beijing and is willing to join hands with China on its Belt and Road Initiative in sectors like connectivity and infrastructure.
China backs Iran as SCO member
China's relations with Iran could see better days ahead as the former is also in favour of inducting the latter in its Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a Eurasian security organisation which could emerge as a key anti-US bloc in times to come. China favours Iran as a member of the SCO for its inclusion will serve Beijing's BRI initiative by easing access and transport logistics to central Asia. Now, a common rivalry with the US could see both the countries hastening their cooperation.
Trump's Iran goof-up will boost China's chances
China would not be complaining deep within because of the US's reckless retreat from the Iran deal. It gives it an opportunity to not only have a bigger reach-out to West Asia but also wait in the wings to play a bigger role in the Korean peace process in case Trump finds himself in a bad mood on the morning of June 12.
The US's credibility has already taken a severe beating after his pulling out of the Iran deal and puts him on a shaky wicket over the Korean peace initiative.
It presents China a massive opportunity to showcase itself as a soft power which stresses on peace and development and undo the hard power image that it carries at the moment over its assertive nationalism and territorial tensions with several neighbours.