Chinese state media confirmed on Tuesday that this week, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un made his second visit in as many months to China, attending a “welcome banquet” that Xi Jinping said made him “feel happy” about their relationship.
In remarks quoted by Chinese state media, Xi and Kim emphasized the importance of keeping the relationship between the two communist countries strong and “comrade-like” as Kim approaches the yet-unspecified date for a historic in-person meeting with American President Donald Trump. That meeting will be the first between the heads of state of both countries and will likely occur in late May or early June at an unconfirmed location in Asia.
China’s state newspaper Global Times and newswire service Xinhua extensively paraphrase remarks by both leaders, who addressed the China-North Korea relationship as “a treasure” and repeatedly stated their desire to keep such visits happening. Yet the reports do not specify what political topics surfaced in discussion, simply defining them as “issues of common concern,” including “the situation of the Korean Peninsula.”
North Korea’s state media outlets have not reported on the visit as of press time, but state television has, according to South Korean news service Yonhap.
Xi did say that “China supports the DPRK’s adherence to the denuclearization of the peninsula, and backs the dialogue and consultation between the DPRK and the United States.”
Kim added that “as long as relevant parties abolish their hostile policies and remove security threats against the DPRK, there is no need for the DPRK to be a nuclear state and denuclearization can be realized.”
North Korean officials, including Kim, have repeatedly stated since the announcement this year that a meeting between Kim and Trump would occur that they support “denuclearization” as long as the United States ceases unspecified “hostile” actions. Skeptics warn that how Pyongyang defines both “denuclearization” and a “threat” to the Kim regime will be a pivotal factor in whether Kim’s meeting with Trump yields positive results.
Xinhua notes that Kim effusively praised Xi’s “extraordinary wisdom.”
The meeting occurred in Dalian, a seaside city a little more than 200 miles from Pyongyang. Xinhua describes the region as having “lush mountains, blue seas and drifting clouds in May” and reports that Kim and Xi “took a stroll” together before a welcome reception. The report emphasizes the “cordial and friendly atmosphere of the meeting.”
Kim and Xi’s meeting appears similar to the first of its kind in March. In that meeting, Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, gave Kim and his wife, Ri Sol-ju, an estimated $400,000 in personal gifts, including jewelry and artifacts. Estimates were based on photos of the gifts appearing online, and if proven, such extravagant expenditures could be a violation of United Nations sanctions on North Korea.
At a crucial time when the regional situation is developing rapidly, Kim said he came to China again to meet with General Secretary and inform him of the situation, hoping to strengthen strategic communication and cooperation with China, deepen DPRK-China friendship, and promote regional peace and stability.
Xi, meanwhile, said the latest meeting built upon Kim’s visit in April, the first time Kim traveled out of North Korea since becoming dictator following the death of father Kim Jong-il. After that meeting, “both China-DPRK relations and the Korean Peninsula situation have made positive progress. I feel happy about it,” Xi reportedly said.
Xi insisted that both countries “maintain frequent exchanges, strengthen strategic communication, deepen understanding and mutual trust, and safeguard common interests.”
According to reports citing unnamed sources in the relevant governments, Xi Jinping may soon make his first trip to Pyongyang to return Kim’s overtures.
President Trump announced on Twitter Tuesday morning that he would be speaking with Xi Jinping in the aftermath of his meeting with Kim, referring to Xi as “my friend.” He had confirmed last week that American and North Korean officials had chosen a place and time for the two to meet. “We’ll be announcing it soon,” he promised.
Multiple reports out of South Korea suggest that the meeting would most likely occur in Singapore.
While Kim Jong-un himself has tempered his language publicly since the announcement that Trump had accepted his invitation to meet, the North Korean government has continued to complain of alleged aggression on the part of the Trump administration. In remarks Monday, a spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry warned, “The U.S. is deliberately provoking [North Korea] at the time when the situation on the Korean Peninsula is moving toward peace and reconciliation.”