Sat, Jun 22, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Xi wraps up two-day visit to N Korea

WARM WELCOME:The authorities deployed tens of thousands to line the streets to welcome Xi Jinping, who rode in in an open-topped limousine with Kim Jong-un

AFP, PYONGYANG

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, right, and Chinese President Xi Jinping wave to the crowds upon Xi’s arrival in Pyongyang on Thursday.

Photo: AFP / KCNA via KNS

North Korea yesterday lauded its ties with historic ally China as Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) wrapped up a highly symbolic two-day visit to his nuclear-armed neighbor, with both nations facing deadlock in their negotiations with US President Donald Trump.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un told the Chinese president that his visit was an opportunity to demonstrate “the immutability and invincibility of the DPRK-China friendship before the world,” the KCNA news agency reported, using the abbreviation of North Korea’s official name.

At a time when “serious and complicated changes are happening in international and regional situations,” the two leaders agreed to “promote close strategic communication” and develop their “common interests,” KCNA reported.

Pyongyang pulled out all the stops to welcome Xi, the first Chinese president to visit in 14 years — a period in which Pyongyang has carried out five nuclear tests and launched missiles capable of reaching the US mainland.

China always prefers stability in its neighborhood and North Korea’s nuclear provocations strained the relationship between the allies, with Beijing backing UN sanctions on Pyongyang and Kim not visiting to pay his respects for more than six years after inheriting power.

However, as he embarked on a flurry of diplomacy last year, Kim ensured that Xi — whose nation is North Korea’s key diplomatic supporter, and main provider of trade and aid — was the first head of state he met.

Kim traveled to China three more times to meet Xi and Pyongyang has been increasingly keen for the Chinese president to reciprocate.

Analysts say Xi, who left Pyongyang yesterday, intended to use the trip as a signal to Trump of his influence with Kim, a week before the G20 summit.

The world’s top two economies are embroiled in protracted trade dispute and their leaders are expected to meet in Osaka, Japan, next week.

Similarly nuclear negotiations between North Korea and the US are deadlocked, after the second summit between Kim and Trump broke up in Hanoi in February with the two unable to reach a deal on sanctions relief and what North Korea might give up in return.

However, North Korean media did not carry comments by Kim reported by Chinese state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV), which quoted him as saying that he was “willing to be patient” in the talks with the US, but wanted “the parties concerned” to meet him halfway.

Xi told him that China “positively evaluated” North Korea’s efforts, CCTV reported.

Seoul-based Institute of North Korean Studies director Jeung Young-tae said the summit amounted to China giving Kim strong backing in the process.

“Xi is saying that he will help Kim resist pressure from the US and calling on Kim to stick to his demands,” Jeung said.

Pyongyang has repeatedly called for Washington to adopt “a new method of calculation” for the negotiations and Seoul-based Korea Institute for National Unification senior researcher Hong Min said that Xi’s visit gave Kim a “political and diplomatic opening to resume talks with the US again.”

North Korean authorities deployed tens of thousands of citizens to line the streets to welcome Xi, with KCNA saying they expressed their “friendly affection” for the Chinese, who have “shared joys and sorrows” with them in the pursuit of socialism.

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