North Korean leader Kim Jong Un told his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping that he is committed to denuclearisation as the dictator made a secret trip to China ahead of his landmark meeting with US President Donald Trump.
After two days of speculation, China and North Korea both confirmed that Kim had travelled to Beijing to meet Xi, with both sides seeking to portray strong ties.
Kim paid a four-day “unofficial visit” to Beijing from Sunday to Wednesday — his first journey abroad since taking power and his first reported meeting with a foreign head of state — at the invitation of Xi, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
The state media confirmed the visit only after Kim had returned to North Korea.
The confirmation of the visit ended speculation about Kim’s secret trip after Japanese media spotted a green train, similar to the one used by Kim’s father, arriving in Beijing on Monday and departing the following day.
Though Chinese officials had refused to confirm Kim’s presence, there were also reports about heavy security on the China-North Korea border and later at a a guesthouse where prominent North Koreans have stayed in the past.
During the visit, which was kept under wraps, Kim held talks with Xi at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing during which the two leaders hailed their nations’ historic relations, with the North Korean leader pledging that he was “committed to the denuclearisation” of the Korean peninsula, Xinhua reported.
Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan held a welcoming banquet for Kim and his wife Ri Sol Ju and watched an art performance together, the report said.
During the talks, Xi welcomed Kim warmly and appreciated his congratulatory message greeting him for his re-election as the General Secretary of CPC and head of the military as well as president for the second five-year term, the report said.
Xi said Kim’s current visit to China had come “at a special time” and was of great significance.
“We speak highly of this visit,” Xi told Kim.
Xi underscored the importance of developing ties, saying it was “a strategic choice and the only right choice,” according to Xinhua.
The Chinese leader said he was willing to maintain frequent contact with Kim “under the new circumstances”.
Kim was quoted as saying that his country wants to transform ties with South Korea into “a relationship of reconciliation and cooperation.”
Kim also said that North Korea is willing to hold summits with Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
“The issue of denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula can be resolved, if South Korea and the United States respond to our efforts with goodwill, create an atmosphere of peace and stability while taking progressive and synchronous measures for the realisation of peace,” Kim said.
He said a series of major and happy events had taken place consecutively in China recently and referred Xi’s re-election for the second term.
Kim said it was his obligation to come congratulate Xi in person, in line with the North Korea-China friendly tradition, the report said.
“There is no question that my first foreign visit would be to the Chinese capital,” Kim said, according to North Korea’s official KCNA news agency.
The North Korean leader said that many important changes have taken in the Korean Peninsula where the situation is developing rapidly and he felt he should come in time to inform Xi in person the situation “out of comradeship and moral responsibility”.
Though allies, the China-North Korean relations went through some testing times since Kim took over as the supreme leader of the country as he pressed ahead with his nuclear programme disregarding caution from Beijing.
Relations between the two countries have been strained after Beijing beefed up UN sanctions by blocking essential supplies like oil and coal following pressure from Trump.
In his talks with Kim, Xi said that China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the official name for North Korea, had “traditional friendship” which was “the precious wealth” of both sides.
Xi said that China was willing to work with North Korea to promote long-term, healthy and stable development of bilateral relations that would benefit the two countries, its peoples, and regional peace, stability and development.
The Chinese president made four proposals concerning the development of the bilateral relations: continuation of high-level exchange, including close communication between him and Kim; make full play of strategic communication; actively advance peaceful development; cement the popular will foundation for China-DPRK friendship enhancing people to people contacts.
Kim said he was greatly encouraged and inspired by Xi’s important views on North Korea-China friendship and the development of relations between the two countries.
Meanwhile, the White House said Trump received a personal note from Xi about Kim’s visit.
“The Chinese government contacted the White House earlier on Tuesday to brief us on Kim Jong Un’s visit to Beijing. The briefing included a personal message from President Xi to President Trump, which has been conveyed to President Trump, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said.
“The US remains in close contact with our allies South Korea and Japan. We see this development as further evidence that our campaign of maximum pressure is creating the appropriate atmosphere for dialogue with North Korea,” Sanders said.