Chinese President Xi Jinping offered North Korean leader Kim Jong Un firm backing in deadlocked nuclear talks with the United States and reasserted Beijing's key role in the wider process, according to the two allies' state media Thursday.
Kim and his delegation are now expected to begin the 13-hour trip to the town of Dandong, which sits on the border between China and North Korea.Kim is expected to spend a total of four days in China, entering the country Monday and leaving early on Thursday.
It is not clear when or where a possible second Kim-Trump summit would take place, though South Korean president Moon Jae-in has said it will happen "soon".
Kim and Xi held talks Tuesday - believed to be Kim's birthday - shortly after the North Korean leader arrived in Beijing. Beyond confirming his presence in Beijing, there has been no detail provided from either the North Korean or Chinese side on his schedule.
Following their historic meeting in Singapore last June, negotiations have somewhat stalled, as the White House demands that North Korea dismantle its nuclear program first, before the United States would lift any of its punitive measures on the country. In his speech, he warned that Pyongyang may change its approach to nuclear talks if Washington persists with sanctions. His visit is also seen as part of an effort to win Chinese support for a reduction of United Nations sanctions imposed over his nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs that have severely impacted his country's already ailing economy.
"Kim needs the support of Xi so as to ask the USA to make substantial steps, such as providing assistance to North Korea and normalising relations with North Korea", he said.
Trump said Sunday that the United States and North Korea are negotiating the location of their next summit.
While North Korea hasn't conducted any launches or detonations in more than a year, it's displayed no real intention of abandoning the programs that are seen as guaranteeing the hard-line communist regime's survival.
Relations between China and North Korea had deteriorated in recent years over Pyongyang's nuclear activities, but ties appear to have warmed, with Kim meeting Xi 3 times last year to pay his respects and keep him informed about developments.
Yonhap said Kim met with President Xi Jinping for about an hour on Tuesday and later attended a dinner at the Great Hall of the People in central Beijing hosted by Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan.
At Tuesday's daily Foreign Ministry briefing, spokesman Lu Kang said details of Mr. Kim's visit would be released "in due course". "If he wants to shift his focus to the development of the economy, he needs China's cooperation", said Lu Chao, a North Korea expert at China's Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences.
North Korea's state news agency KCNA said both sides agreed in Beijing on the need to maintain the goal of the peaceful resolution of nuclear issues.
While Mr. Trump says he considers Mr. Xi key to enticing Mr. Kim into taking concrete steps toward denuclearization, the president's own relationship with his Chinese counterpart has frayed over the U.S.
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