PRESIDENT Xi Jinping of China met with Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, on Tuesday, for the second time in two months, continuing a flurry of diplomacy over the North’s nuclear program.
The meeting in the Chinese port city of Dalian near the North Korean border, came as China tries to regain a central role in the fast-moving diplomacy on the Korean Peninsula.
It was announced on China’s state broadcaster, CCTV, which said that Kim arrived in Dalian on Monday and left on Tuesday.
Xinhua, the official news agency, reported that Xi and Kim “took a stroll and attended a luncheon.” It added: “In a cordial and friendly atmosphere, the top leaders of the two parties and the two countries had an all-round and in-depth exchange of views” on relations between their two countries.
The visit came just before China’s premier, Li Keqiang, was scheduled to go to Tokyo on Wednesday to meet President Moon Jae-in of South Korea and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan.
The three are expected to discuss North Korean denuclearization among other issues.
Chinese analysts had speculated that Mr. Kim went to Dalian to ask Xi for sanctions relief. At the urging of the Trump administration, China grudgingly voted last year for United Nations sanctions that have hurt the North’s economy, draining its reserves of foreign currency.
Kim recently met Moon, who is eager to help the North with economic aid.
Their meeting also gave the North Korean leader new leverage with Xi. In essence, Kim can say that if China does not help ease the North’s economic pain, South Korea will.
The two meetings between Xi and Kim represent a dramatic change from the frosty period, starting when Kim took power in 2011, when the two leaders refused to meet each other.
In unusually positive language, Xi said that the North Korean leader had come “to meet me again just after 40-odd days” and “at a crucial time when the Korean Peninsula situation is undergoing profound and complex changes,” according to Xinhua.