China's Xi arrives in North Korea, set to hold talks with Kim
Xi is the first Chinese leader to visit the reclusive country in 14 years, and could bring fresh support measures for its floundering, sanctions-bound economy.
“This visit is all about timing, as you know just over a week from now President Xi will be sitting down with US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of G20 summit in Osaka,” Al Jazeera Adrian Brown, reporting from Beijing said.
China is the North’s only major ally, and the visit comes amid renewed tension on the Korean peninsula as the United States seeks to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons.
Xi’s entourage includes China’s two top diplomats and He Lifeng, head of the National Development and Reform Commission, state media said in a brief report.
While China has signed up to UN sanctions for the North’s repeated nuclear and missile tests, saying it is enforcing them fully, despite some US doubts, it has suggested sanctions relief for the country.
China, engaged in a bitter trade war with the US, has also defended its “normal” trade and business ties with North Korea.
“I personally think the US and Trump administration cannot achieve any meaningful deal involving the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula without a major contribution by China,” Victor Gao, an analyst based in Beijing, told Al Jazeera.
North Korea’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper welcomed Xi’s “historic visit” in a front-page commentary alongside a lengthy profile.
Xi’s trip highlights two-way ties that “never waver despite any headwinds,” and strengthen “blood ties” between the two peoples, it said.
The Chinese leader is expected to hold summits with Kim and pay tribute at the Friendship Tower, which commemorates Chinese troops who fought together with North Koreans during the 1950-53 Korean War.
“The trip is important since it’s 70 years since China and North Korea established diplomatic relations. This is going to be a choreographed North Korea celebration,” Al Jazeera’s Brown said.
“His (Xi) message to Kim will be this: give up your nuclear weapons, and we can help you develop your economy.
“Kim is expected to say to him: please ease up on the sanctions that you have been enforcing on North Korea.”
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies