North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has concerns about deadlocked denuclearization talks with the United States, but told Chinese President Xi Jinping he is committed to improving Pyongyang’s relationship with Washington, Chinese state media reported Thursday.
Discussions between Kim, who spent two days in Beijing, and Xi were reported just hours after Kim’s train left for the northeast border, where it entered North Korea early Thursday.
The visit was Kim’s fourth to North Korea’s primary diplomatic and economic ally since last year, and raises speculation that Kim was coordinating with China ahead of a possible second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, who told reporters in early December that a second summit with Kim will likely take place in January or February 2019.
Xi is reported to have assured Kim of China’s support and said he hopes the two sides “will meet each other halfway.”
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South Korean President Moon Jae-in was also hopeful following Kim’s visit.
“I think Chairman Kim Jong Un’s visit to China will have a very positive effect on the success of the second U.S.-North Korea summit,” Moon told reporters Thursday.
Kim and Xi held talks Tuesday — believed to be Kim’s birthday — shortly after the North Korean leader arrived in Beijing. He later attended a dinner with Xi and his wife at the Great Hall of the People. Kim was accompanied by his wife, Ri Sol Ju.
Kim and President Trump signed a vague agreement during their historic summit in Singapore last June that calls on Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear program. But further negotiations have stalled over the North’s demand for front-loaded sanctions relief tied to small progress, and its opposition to the Trump administration’s call for complete denuclearization before granting any concessions.
During his annual New Year’s Day address last week, Kim said it was his “firm will” that North Korea will no longer produce or test nuclear weapons. He also said he would be willing to hold another face-to-face meeting with Trump, but warned his country may have to take another path unless Washington takes “corresponding measures.”
North Korea is also demanding that the United States and South Korea first issue a peace declaration to formally end hostilities and replace the armistice that has been in effect since the Korean War ended in 1953. Critics worry a peace declaration could undermine the justification for the U.S. military presence in South Korea.