North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has visited China and met President Xi Jinping, their second encounter in two months in a flurry of diplomatic engagement that has eased tensions on the Korean peninsula.
They met on Monday and Tuesday in the coastal city of Dalian ahead of a historic meeting between Kim and US President Donald Trump that may happen as soon as this month.
China has been keen to show it has an indispensable role in seeking a lasting solution to tension over North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, concerned that its interests may be ignored, especially as North Korea and the United States establish contacts.
During the visit, announced only after it was over, Kim told Mr Xi he hoped relevant parties would take “phased” and “synchronised” measures to realise denuclearisation and lasting peace on the Korean peninsula.
“So long as relevant parties eliminate hostile policies and security threats toward North Korea, North Korea has no need for nuclear, and denuclearisation can be realised,” China’s official Xinhua news agency cited Kim as saying.
Kim told Mr Xi the denuclearisation of the peninsula was North Korea’s “constant and clear position”, and that dialogue between North Korea and the United States could build mutual trust.
Mr Trump and Mr Xi discussed developments on the Korean peninsula and Kim’s visit to China during a phone call on Tuesday morning, the White House said.
Mr Xi and Mr Trump agreed on the importance of maintaining sanctions on Pyongyang until it permanently dismantles its nuclear and missile programs, the White House said.
Chinese state media said Mr Xi reiterated China’s support for a US-North Korea summit.
Chinese state television said Mr Xi said he “hopes the United States and North Korea can build mutual trust, synchronise actions, resolve each sides’ concerns through meeting and consultations, consider North Korea’s reasonable security concerns, and jointly promote the political resolution process to the Korean peninsula issue.”
In the past North Korea has used the term “hostile policies” in reference to the US troop presence in South Korea, the nuclear umbrella covering South Korea and Japan and regular joint military exercises in South Korea.
China is North Korea’s most important economic and diplomatic backer, but Beijing has been angered by Pyongyang’s repeated nuclear and missile tests and supported tough UN sanctions against its Cold War-era ally.
The two sides have stepped up engagement since Mr Trump surprised the world in March by saying he would be willing to meet Kim in a bid to resolve the crisis over Pyongyang’s development of nuclear missiles capable of hitting the United States.
Kim was accompanied to China by his sister, Kim Yo-Jong, who has played a leading role in diplomatic overtures by the long-isolated country.
“China supports North Korea’s upholding of denuclearisation on the peninsula, and supports North Korea and the United States resolving the peninsula issue through dialogue and consultation,” Mr Xi said.
North Korean state media said Kim was “very pleased” that the relationship with China was reaching a high point, and North Korea would cooperate with China more actively as the situation on the Korean peninsula changed.