Xi Jinping set to visit Pyongyang this week

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Xi Jinping set to visit Pyongyang this week

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Chinese President Xi Jinping hold a summit in January in Beijing. [YONHAP]

Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Pyongyang later this week, reported the North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) Monday.

Xi is scheduled to pay a two-day state visit to North Korea from Thursday at the invitation of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, according to the KCNA and China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency.

The Chinese leader’s first visit to Pyongyang comes days ahead of a trip to Japan on June 28 and 29 for the Group of 20, or G-20, summit in Osaka.

Kim made four visits to China for summits with Xi over the past year.

There has been much speculation on whether Xi will pay a visit to Pyongyang before he holds a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Seoul.

President Moon visited Beijing in December 2017, and Xi has been expected to make a reciprocal visit to Seoul later this year.

Ever since the second summit between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump broke down in Hanoi, Vietnam, in late February, Pyongyang has been reaching out to its traditional allies - Beijing and Moscow - for what local pundits see as an attempt to gain more leverage.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of ties between China and North Korea.

The Blue House said in a statement Monday evening that “since last week” the South Korean government has been aware of and “closing observing” President Xi’s plans to visit North Korea.

“Our government views President Xi Jinping’s visit to North Korea as contributing to the peaceful resolution of the Korean Peninsula issue,” said Ko Min-jung, the Blue House spokesperson, adding that Seoul has been “closely consulting with the Chinese government” to realize this.

She added that Xi’s visit to Pyongyang is expected to “help contribute to the early resumption of negotiations for the complete denuclearization and the establishment of permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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