SWITZERLAND, JUNE 20 – China’s Xi Jinping is expected to hold talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un after he arrived in Pyongyang in the first state visit by a Chinese president in 14 years.
Analysts say denuclearisation of Korean Peninsula and Pyongyang’s failing economy in the wake of international sanctions are likely to top the agenda of the talks.
As Xi dines with Kim in North Korea, many eyes will be on Donald Trump, thousands of kilometres away in the United States. Trump announced on Tuesday that he would be meeting with Xi Jinping on the side-lines of the G20 summit in Japan next week.
Both Kim and Xi are engaged in separate disputes with President Trump — one over trade, the other over the North’s nuclear weapons. American officials have said they expect Mr. Xi to try to make headway with Mr. Kim on the nuclear issue, then use that as leverage with Mr. Trump on trade next week, when the two are expected to meet in Japan.
The Chinese president is meeting Kim for the fifth time since March last year, and the two leaders will pay tribute to Chinese soldiers who fought for the North during the Korean War nearly 70 years ago.
In a front page op-ed that was published in North Korea’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper ahead of the visit, Xi called for the “new development of relations” between China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the official name for North Korea.
The trip highlights two-way ties that “never waver despite any headwinds” and strengthens “blood ties” between the two peoples, the Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in a front-page commentary on Thursday.
Xi’s two-day state visit aims to deepen long-standing ties between the two countries and convince Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons in lieu of economic aid.
The Chinese president is accompanied by his Foreign Minister Wang Yi and other officials and will push for his country’s role in nuclear diplomacy amid rising trade tensions with the US.
Xi is due to meet US President Donald Trump at the G20 in Japan next week, and has just returned from Moscow where he held talks and celebrated his birthday with Russian President Vladimir Putin over cake, ice cream and champagne.
In May, Kim also met Putin, where the two men discussed the collapse of Kim’s second summit with Trump in February.
“There’s a (diplomatic) role for China to play because I think North Korea itself is willing to offer some additional concessions,” said Tong Zhou, an expert in China-North Korea relations at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre for Global Policy in Beijing.
“China, using its ‘special relationship’ can help provide a face-saving way for North Korea to soften its position.”