Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) yesterday said that Beijing is willing to play a “positive role” in the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and push for a political settlement during a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the first visit by a Chinese president in 14 years.
“China is ready within its capacity to help the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea address its legitimate security and development concerns, strengthen coordination with it and other relevant parties, and play a positive and constructive role in realizing denuclearization on the peninsula, and enduring regional peace and stability,” Xi said at the meeting.
The two leaders held talks after Xi’s arrival in the North Korean capital, China Central Television (CCTV) reported.
Both sides should strengthen high-level exchanges in the face of the complex evolution of the international and regional situation, Xi said.
North Korean state media had not yet given its account of the discussions.
Besides showcasing ties that stretch back to the 1950 to 1953 Korean War, Xi and and Kim were expected to use the visit to stake out common ground in their struggles with US President Donald Trump.
The trip comes just a week ahead of Xi’s planned meeting with Trump on the sidelines a G20 summit in Japan, in what is shaping up to be a possible turning point in the trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies.
The visit demonstrates China’s broader influence in the region, especially in North Korea, which relies on its larger neighbor for vital trade and security backing.
Nuclear talks between the US and North Korea stalled after Trump walked out on his second meeting with Kim in February without a deal to reduce the nation’s arsenal.
Kim has sought to maintain his diplomatic push despite the US setback, meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in April.
North Korea is willing to be patient and hopes a solution can be explored that addresses all concerns, Kim said yesterday, CCTV reported.
While Xi has stayed largely on the sidelines during talks between Trump and Kim, China has played a key role, both by approving UN sanctions against North Korea and by backing Kim.
Xi has hosted Kim in Beijing before both of the North Korean leader’s meetings with Trump.
The Chinese president arrived in Pyongyang before noon accompanied by his wife, Peng Liyuan (彭麗媛), Xinhua news agency reported.
He was greeted by Kim at the airport and inspected an honor guard before driving past flag-waving crowds that Chinese state media said contained hundreds of thousands of people.
The crowds held banners proclaiming that the friendship between the two nations “shall be eternal.”
The welcome demonstrated how far the sometimes fraught ties between the two neighbors have improved since Kim made his first visit to Beijing last year.
Talks between Trump and Kim have made little progress since they held a historic meeting in Singapore a year ago. The pair agreed at that meeting to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” without defining what that meant or setting deadlines.
Those negotiations broke down in February after Trump rejected Kim’s offer to close some nuclear facilities in exchange for the elimination of the most severe UN sanctions on North Korea.
While China says it supports a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, it advocates a phased approach similar to Kim’s position.
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