Xi Jinping vows 'constructive role' in denuclearization process

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Xi Jinping vows 'constructive role' in denuclearization process

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, left, shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Tuesday during their third summit. [YONHAP]

Chinese President Xi Jinping showed “strong support” for North Korea’s stance on denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula and vowed to continuously play a “constructive role” in the process during his third summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Beijing, the North’s state media reported Wednesday morning.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Kim “thanked” Xi for helping him during his first summit with U.S. President Donald Trump on June 12 in Singapore, adding both leaders exchanged “valuable opinions” on issues related to denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.

Kim was said to have been “greatly pleased” about the faith and “strategic cooperation” building between him and Xi — an indication of China’s role in North Korea’s positioning as it engages with the United States in denuclearization talks, as well as Kim’s reliance on his strongest ally for boosting negotiating power.

It was the first time that North Korea reported on Kim’s visit to China, his third since assuming power in December 2011, before his return to the North. North Korean media typically reports on the leader’s travel after he has returned from them due to security reasons.

Kim is expected to end his two-day trip today.

Kim has timed his visits to China in between major summits and right ahead of meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who expects to travel to the North Korean capital of Pyongyang for a third visit this week to follow up on the agreement that Kim and Trump signed during their summit.

Analysts widely believe Kim is trying to seek security assurances and political backing from Xi as leverage against the United States. China, on the other hand, will likely try to shore up its role in ongoing talks and exert influence on peninsular affairs.

Trump brazenly showed dismay of Xi’s influence on Kim in late May when he told reporters he was “a little disappointed” about Kim’s apparent change of posture after his second meeting with Xi, saying there was “a little change in attitude” from the North Korean leader, without going into the details.

Two days later, Trump pulled out of his planned summit with Kim. The leaders’ meeting was back on only after Kim dispatched a special envoy to Washington to hand-deliver a personal letter to Trump on June 1.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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