Chinese President Xi Jinping makes a historic trip to Pyongyang on Thursday, refurbishing a problematic alliance as he and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un confront their own challenges with US President Donald Trump.
Xi Jinping is the first Chinese President for visiting North Korea in 14 years after relations between the Cold War era allies decayed over the nuclear provocations of Pyongyang and subsequent supporting of UN sanctions.
Xi and Kim have been working to patch up ties, with the young North Korean leader visiting his older comrade four times in China in the past year and Beijing calling for sanctions to be relaxed. But the Chinese leader waited to respond to the tour, biding his time to notice how nuclear discussions between Kim and Trump would play out before settling to visit Pyongyang, according to analysts.
Two-days visit of Xi is a chance for China to present its impact on the region. Professor of North Korean studies at Kyungnam University, Lim Elu-Chul said, “ for North Korea, the coming meeting will serve to show the US that China has its back and to send a message to Washington it should stop its maximum pressure posture”.
Debates between Trump and Kim have soured after the second summit in February broke up without a deal, stalling to agree on what Pyongyang would be willing to give up in exchange for approval relief.
The trade negotiations of Beijing with Washington hit a wall last month. Xi could come back from Pyongyang with some leverage while he meets the US President at the G-20 summit in Japan next week.
In a rare opinion piece published in North Korea’s official newspaper on Wednesday, Xi greeted the “irreplaceable” friendship of the adjacent nations and offered a “grand plan” to bring permanent stability to East Asia.