Beijing: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made an unannounced visit to China and met President Xi Jinping reaffirming his commitment to denuclearization, weeks before planned summit meetings with US and South Korean leaders, Chinese and North Korean media said on Wednesday.
Kim, 34, made the visit to China at the invitation of Xi, accompanied by his wife Ri Sol-ju and key officials, including de facto No. 2 figure Choe Ryong-hae, according to North Korea’s state news agency.
The two leaders held talks at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan held a welcoming banquet for Kim and his wife and watched an art performance together, China’s Xinhua news agency reported.
It was Kim’s first trip outside North Korea since he took power in 2011 and his first meeting with another head of state.
His trip unfolded in extraordinary secrecy and security. It was officially confirmed only after he left Beijing on the same armoured train that stirred speculation when it arrived mysteriously in the Chinese capital on Monday.
Kim’s father and grandfather, the North’s former leaders, used similar trains for foreign trips.
Xinhua described the North Korean leader’s visit as “unofficial” and said during the talks, Xi expressed “warm welcome” on behalf of the CPC Central Committee to Kim.
Kim told Xi that he was “open to dialogue with the US, including a potential summit meeting with US President Donald Trump and was committed to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula”, it said.
Kim is due to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in next month and US President Donald Trump in May on North Korea’s nuclear tests.
“The issue of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula can be resolved if South Korea and the US respond to our efforts with goodwill, create an atmosphere of peace and stability while taking progressive and synchronous measures for the realization of peace,” Kim said.
The North’s leader told Xi that the situation on the Korean Peninsula was starting to “get better” as it has taken an initiative to ease tensions and propose for peace talks, the news agency said.
“It is our consistent stand to be committed to denuclearisation on the peninsula, in accordance with the will of late President Kim Il Sung and late General Secretary Kim Jong Il,” Kim told Xi.
Xi said: “China sticks to the goal of denuclearisation of the peninsula, safeguarding peace and stability on the peninsula and solving problems through dialogue and consultation.”
He added that China “will continue to play constructive role on the issue and work with all parties, including North Korea, towards the thaw of the situation in the peninsula”.
Meanwhile, Washington said China briefed the Trump administration on the visit.
“We see this development as further evidence that our campaign of maximum pressure is creating the appropriate atmosphere for dialogue with North Korea,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.
Japan, on the other hand, asked China for explanations on the visit. “We want to receive a complete explanation from China,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.
China is North Korea’s sole ally. Their friendship dates back to the Korean War when Beijing stood by Pyongyang.
However, North’s testing of ballistic missiles by defying sanctions has frustrated China, which is wary of a war in the neighbourhood.