The leaders of North Korea and China lauded their two nations’ historic ties on Friday, as Chinese President Xi Jinping wrapped up a two-day visit to Pyongyang amid stalled talks with the United States over the North’s nuclear programme.
Kim Jong Un told the Chinese president that his visit was an opportunity to demonstrate “the immutability and invincibility of the DPRK-China friendship before the world”, the KCNA news agency reported, using the abbreviation for North Korea’s official name.
At a time when “serious and complicated changes are happening in international and regional situations”, KCNA said, the two leaders agreed to “promote close strategic communication” and develop their “common interests”.
Pyongyang has pulled out all the stops to welcome Xi, the first Chinese leader to visit the country in 14 years – a period in which Pyongyang has carried out five nuclear tests and launched missiles capable of reaching the entire US mainland.
China’s priority is to maintain stability and the North’s nuclear provocations strained the relationship between the Cold War allies, with Beijing backing UN sanctions on Pyongyang and Kim not visiting China until he had been in power for more than six years despite the country being the North’s key diplomatic supporter and main provider of trade and aid.
Xi’s visit to Pyongyang comes as China and the US are involved in a messy trade war and North Korea’s own negotiations with the US – over trade – are stalled. Analysts say Xi’s visit is intended as a signal to Trump of his influence with Kim, ahead of next week’s G20 summit in Japan.
North Korean media did not carry comments by Kim reported by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, which quoted him as saying that he was “willing to be patient” in talks with the US, but wanted “the parties concerned” to meet him halfway.
Xi told him that China “positively evaluated” the North’s efforts, CCTV said.
Jeung Young-tae, director of the Institute of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said the summit amounted to China giving Kim strong backing in the process.
“Xi is saying that he will help Kim resist pressure from the US and calling on Kim to stick to his demands,” he told AFP.
Pyongyang has repeatedly called for Washington to adopt “a new method of calculation” for the negotiations, and Hong Min, a senior researcher at the South’s state-run Korea Institute for National Unification said Xi’s visit gave Kim a “political and diplomatic opening to resume talks with the US again”.
Tens of thousands of North Koreans lined the streets to welcome Xi, as the two leaders rode together through the capital in an open-topped Mercedes Benz limousine. On Thursday evening Xi and his entourage were treated to a special performance of the North’s Mass Games.
Songs in the show included I love thee, China, and the Rodong Sinmun newspaper, the mouthpiece of the North’s ruling party, carried front-page pictures of Kim and his wife Ri Sol Ju welcoming Xi.
Beijing sent millions of troops known as the “Chinese People’s Volunteers” to save the North from defeat during the Korean War, and Mao Zedong described their relations as “close as lips and teeth”.