China’s President Xi Jinping and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un held talks over two days in the northeastern Chinese coastal city of Dalian, the state media reported on Tuesday.
This was the second summit between the two leaders in about 40 days, with Kim having travelled to Beijing for a secret meeting in March ahead of a summit between the leaders of North and South Korea.
The meeting on May 7 and 8 was unannounced as well, with confirmation coming only when China’s state media announced it and published a photo of Xi and Kim taking a stroll on a beach.
The meeting was held days after Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in met for a historic summit in Panmunjom in April and ahead of the much anticipated meeting between Kim and US President Donald Trump, expected in the coming weeks.
Kim’s visit to Beijing in March was his first international trip after he assumed power in 2011, sending out a signal that China remained a crucial player in the Korean peninsula. Beijing remained Pyongyang’s key ally and economic benefactor as sanctions by Western powers battered the economy of North Korea. The second meeting cements that notion further.
Though it wasn’t described as such, the reports in the state media suggested the meeting between Kim and Xi was apparently “informal” in nature.
This is only the third time that Xi has travelled outside Beijing to meet a leader. The only two one-on-one meetings with a leader outside the national capital were with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the cities of Xian and Wuhan.
The official Xinhua news agency described the meeting in uncharacteristic and descriptive language: “Dalian sees lush mountains, blue seas and drifting clouds in May. Xi held talks with Kim and hosted a welcome banquet for him. Together, they also took a stroll and attended a luncheon.”
It added: “In a cordial and friendly atmosphere, the top leaders of the two parties and the two countries had an all-round and in-depth exchange of views on China-DPRK relations and major issues of common concern.”
Xi was quoted as having said: “Comrade Chairman made a special trip to China to meet me again just after 40-odd days at a crucial time when the Korean Peninsula situation is undergoing profound and complex changes.
“I speak highly of it,” Xi said. “After the first meeting between me and Comrade Chairman, both China-DPRK relations and the Korean Peninsula situation have made positive progress. I feel happy about it.”
Kim was quoted as saying that bilateral ties and the situation on the Korean Peninsula had undergone meaningful progress since March. “These are the positive outcomes of the historic meeting between me and Comrade General Secretary,” he said.
A flurry of diplomatic activities has taken place lately on the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, with Pyongyang announcing it will dismantle its nuclear test site.
Kim crossed the border between North and South Korean on April 27 and met President Moon in the demilitarised zone of Panmunjom. The two leaders pledged to finally end the Korean War and reaffirmed their commitment to the complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula in the Panmunjom Declaration.
Last week, China’s foreign minister Wang Yi visited Pyongyang and said China supports an end to the state of war on the peninsula. He backed North Korea’s decision to shift its strategic focus to economic development and the resolution of its legitimate security concerns during the process of denuclearisation.
As it turns out, Wang’s visit was a precursor to this week’s meeting between Xi and Kim.