Friday, January 18, 2019 | ePaper
In talks with Kim, Xi backs second North Korea-US summit
AFP, Beijing :
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un shaking hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during visit to Beijing.
Chinese President Xi Jinping offered North Korean leader Kim Jong Un firm backing in deadlocked nuclear talks with the United States and reasserted Beijing's key role in the wider process, according to the two allies' state media Thursday.
Kim visited Beijing by train this week for two days of talks with Xi seen as a strategy session ahead of a second summit between the North Korean leader and US President Donald Trump.
At their first meeting in Singapore in June, Kim and Trump signed a vaguely worded document with Kim pledging to work towards the "denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula".
But progress has since stalled with Pyongyang and Washington disagreeing over what that means.
North Korea wants relief from the multiple sets of sanctions imposed on it over its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programmes, while the US wants them to remain in place until it gives up its arms - something Pyongyang has made no public promise to do.
China also wants the sanctions relaxed and Xi said it "hopes that the DPRK and the United States will meet each other halfway" according to China's state news agency Xinhua, using the initials of the North's official name.
He "spoke highly of the positive measures taken by the DPRK side", it added.
North Korea has carried out six nuclear blasts and launched missiles capable of reaching the whole of the United States, but has carried out no such tests for more than a year and blew up the entrances to a nuclear testing ground it said it no longer needed.
Kim has previously said his country has completed the development of its nuclear arsenal and Pyongyang has rejected demands for what it calls its "unilateral" disarmament as "gangster-like".
China is the North's sole major ally, main diplomatic backer and a key trade partner, whose forces were instrumental in fighting for it during the 1950-53 Korean War.
Relations between China and North Korea had deteriorated in recent years over Pyongyang's nuclear activities, but ties appear to have warmed, with Kim meeting Xi three times last year to pay his respects and keep him informed about developments.