Chinese President to visit North Korea this week, Latest World News - The New Paper

Chinese President to visit North Korea this week

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BEIJING Chinese leader Xi Jinping will make the first trip to North Korea by a Chinese president in 14 years this week, state media said yesterday, as Beijing tightens relations with Pyongyang amid tensions with the US.

Mr Xi will visit Pyongyang on Thursday and Friday at the invitation of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, said Chinese broadcaster CCTV.

The timing is likely to raise eyebrows at the White House as it comes one week before the G-20 summit in Japan, where US President Donald Trump expects to meet Mr Xi to discuss their trade war.

China and North Korea have worked to improve relations in the past year after they deteriorated as Beijing backed a series of UN sanctions against Pyongyang over its nuclear activities.

Mr Kim travelled to China - his country's sole major ally - four times in the past year to meet Mr Xi, who did not reciprocate until now.

It will be the first trip there by a Chinese president since Mr Hu Jintao visited in 2005.

With Beijing and Washington at loggerheads over trade, China is keen to remind Mr Trump of its influence in Pyongyang, with whom his nuclear negotiations are also at a deadlock.

"The signal would be that China remains a critical stakeholder," said Professor Jingdong Yuan, who specialises in Asia-Pacific security and Chinese foreign policy at the University of Sydney.

"You cannot ignore China, and China can play a very important role."


Mr Xi could thus use the trip as a "bargaining chip" in the US-China trade war, he added.

It will be Mr Xi's first trip to North Korea since taking power in 2012, though he visited the country as vice-president in 2008.

"China and the DPRK are friendly neighbours," CCTV said referring to the North's official acronym, adding Mr Xi and Mr Kim have reached a "series of important consensus" in past meetings and that a new chapter of bilateral relations had begun.

"From a North Korean perspective, it's time for Chairman Xi to visit," said Mr John Delury, an expert on US-China relations and Korean peninsula affairs at Yonsei University in Seoul. "They do keep score and it's like four to zero." - AFP