Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

Chinese President Xi Jinping and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met last week in the northeastern Chinese city of Dalian, just several weeks after their last get together. The optics and timing of sit-down underscored to many the degree to which China is running the show ahead of a possible upcoming US-North Korea summit.

Kim’s threat on Wednesday to cancel the June summit with US President Donald Trump aside, there is excitement in the air in the border town of Dandong, with expectations that China will be letting up on sanctions soon. After all, as North Korea’s main trading partner, China will ultimately decide whether a campaign of “maximum pressure” is to continue.

The New York Times reported on Friday that “sales [in Dandong] have taken off and prices have doubled as buyers — including North Koreans carrying stacks of Chinese currency — snap up studios overlooking the Yalu River, a saleswoman said.”

And today, Bloomberg has confirmed the trend with numbers:

“New-home prices in Dandong, which sits across the Yalu River from North Korea and is the nexus of trade between the two countries, gained a record 2 percent in April from March, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday. The Dandong price gain dwarfed the 0.57 percent average rise in the 70 cities tracked by the government, the report showed.”

The rush to get in on a North Korea peace boom in China’s northeast has also laid bare the difficulties Beijing faces in trying to tamp down property speculation. Dandong moved to curb the buying spree, instituting a resale ban this week.

All the excitement comes as the first major challenges to the US striking a deal with the North finally begin to take shape. The Trump administration has been adamant that no economic relief should be offered to the North before denuclearization is complete. After meeting with Xi, Kim decided that wouldn’t do.

For his part, Xi reportedly endorsed “phased and synchronous measures” that would “eventually achieve denuclearization and lasting peace on the peninsula,” when he met with Kim.

In the words of Trump, “we’ll see.”