China’s President Xi Jinping said in an op-ed published in the North Korean state newspaper Rodong Sinmun on Wednesday that China supported North Korea’s “correct direction” in politically resolving issues on the Korean Peninsula.
The front-page op-ed is an honour rarely granted to foreign leaders and comes a day before Xi travels to Pyongyang at the invitation of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, making him the first Chinese leader to visit in 14 years.
Xi said the two Asian countries will “strengthen our strategic communication and exchanges,” adding that China will firmly support Kim’s achievements in “socialist construction” aimed at economic development and improving people’s lives, according to the newspaper. The visit is expected to last two days.
The visit is a show of support for Kim, whose drive to boost the economy has suffered since the February collapse of the Hanoi summit between North Korea’s Kim and United States President Donald Trump.
At the same time, tensions between Beijing and Washington over trade and other issues have been increasing.
Xi’s visit kicks off a flurry of high-level diplomatic activity around the Korean Peninsula in the run-up to the G20 summit in Japan later this month.
The Chinese president did not directly address the international sanctions – many of which were imposed with China’s vote at the United Nations – that have been levied in an effort to convince Kim to give up his nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
On Tuesday, China joined Russia in delaying a US request for a UN Security Council sanctions committee to demand an immediate halt to deliveries of refined petroleum to North Korea over accusations Pyongyang violated a UN limit on such shipments.
Xi said North Korea and China would expand and develop relations between the two countries in areas such as education, culture, sports, tourism and youth.
“We will actively contribute to peace, stability, development and prosperity in the region by strengthening communication and coordination with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” the column said referring to the official name for North Korea.
China will also engage with other stakeholders “by jointly expediting progress on dialogue and negotiations on the issues of the Korean peninsula,” it added.