North Korea's Kim seems to have an enormous objective: Successful Belt and Highway investments from Beijing

For now, Kim and Xi appear to be taking things slow.

The two leaders are “probably both anticipating a time when they can engage in a more substantial discussion” on the matter, said Anthony Rinna, an analyst at research group SinoNK. “The two sides will likely want to wait and see how things progress in the coming year, and beyond, in terms not only of security but also other regional economic developments.”

If denuclearization moves forward, Chamorro expects “more cooperation on infrastructure from China into North Korea.”

“China does want North Korea to take lessons from China’s history and follow the Chinese model of economic reform — so if Kim starts to take that path, perhaps we’ll see China increase the economic rewards for North Korea over time,” Obo added.

South Korea, who is a BRI member, could have a major role to play in North Korea potentially joining the landmark trade initiative. Seoul’s “New Northern Policy” envisions cooperation between the two Koreas as well as China, Russia and Eurasian states.

“If South Korea manages to develop stronger economic links with North Korea, then North Korea’s participation in the BRI will likely depend in part on how much the South Korean government wants to connect the New Northern Policy with the BRI,” said Rinna.

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