China's Xi heads for North Korea for talks with Kim Jong Un

Friday, 21 Jun, 2019

The relevant country apparently refers to the United States.

Leaders of China and the DPRK, said Xi, have maintained close contacts for generations, and have written a fine story in the history of worldwide relations. "I hope the relevant country will see the DPRK face-to-face and address each other's issues of interest so as to resolve the Korean Peninsula issue".

Describing the issue as "highly complex and sensitive", Mr Xi said his government was willing to play a constructive role in the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.

Pyongyang wants to demonstrate to Trump that it has China's support after Trump and Kim's second summit in Hanoi in February broke up without a deal.

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 United Nations sanctions on North Korea.

Pyongyang always puts on an impressive show when a foreign leader visits but in an unprecedented move, Xi was welcomed at the Kumsusan Palace, the mausoleum where the preserved bodies of the North's founder Kim Il Sung and his successor Kim Jong Il - the grandfather and father of the current leader - lie in state.

Pyongyang has been frequently condemned by the worldwide community for decades of prioritising the military and its nuclear weapons programme over adequately providing for its people - an imbalance some critics say the UN's aid programme encourages.

The official Xinhua News Agency says about 10,000 people stood in formation and waved flowers at the airport in Pyongyang on Thursday.

The North's state media also reported in May that the country was experiencing the worst drought since 1917.

"The main goal for the Kim Jong Un regime in negotiating is to keep North Korea as a new nuclear state in this region, there is no doubt about that", he said at a news conference in Tokyo, where he is promoting the Japanese translation of his book, "Password From the Third Floor", an inside look at North Korean diplomacy and the Kim regime.

But as he embarked on a flurry of diplomacy a year ago, Kim ensured that Xi - the leader of his country's key diplomatic supporter and the main provider of trade and aid - was the first head of state he met.

Xi said North Korea is taking the "right direction" by politically resolving issues on the Korean Peninsula in a rare op-ed published by a North Korean state newspaper Wednesday, June 19, 2019, a day before Xi visits Pyongyang to meet Kim.

The talks with the USA have reached an impasse over a fundamental difference in approach.

Washington, however, appears firm in keeping sanctions on Pyongyang in place until its complete denuclearization, though it says that door is open to negotiations.

Prof Yongwook Ryu, an global relations expert at the National University of Singapore, said Mr Xi could be making a "serious mistake" if he tries to use North Korea as a bargaining chip with Mr Trump, because the United States leader separates security issues from economic ones. Washington wants Beijing to enforce global sanctions to force the North to give up its nuclear weapons program.

Both sides should enhance communication and coordination at all levels, and deepen inter-party communication and exchanges on governing experience, Xi added.

"Xi can use this leverage to strengthen China's position in trade talks with the United States".

Xi, who is locked in a bitter trade war with U.S. President Donald Trump, is expected to meet with the American leader at the G20 meetings in Japan.

He left the Chinese capital Thursday morning with his wife and several key aides, including Foreign Minister Wang Yi, top diplomat Yang Jiechi, and key economic adviser He Lifeng, according to Chinese state media.

Xi's official schedule disclosed to the media includes a summit with Kim and a visit to the Friendship Tower, a symbol of the fraternal bond between Beijing and Pyongyang.

Hundreds of North Koreans attend the Pyeongchang Games, including Kim's sister, who conveys her brother's desire for a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.