By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN
BEIJING (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in a northern Chinese port city and pledged his continuing commitment to denuclearization ahead of his expected summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, state media said Tuesday.
The meeting Monday and Tuesday in Dalian is the second between Xi and Kim in recent weeks, following Kim’s March visit to Beijing — his first since taking power six years ago.
In comments carried Tuesday night by Chinese state media, neither leader was quoted as directly referring to either the planned Trump meeting or Kim’s summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in late last month.
However, state broadcaster CCTV quoted Xi as saying China “supports North Korea to stick to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and supports North Korea and the U.S. in solving the peninsula issue through dialogue and consultation.”
Trump tweeted Tuesday that he planned to speak with Xi later in the day to discuss trade and North Korea, where he said “relationships and trust are building.”
Kim was quoted as telling Xi that North Korea remains committed to denuclearization and has no need to possess nuclear weapons if a “relevant party” drops its “hostile policy and security threats” against it, in a clear reference to the United States.
“I hope to build mutual trust with the U.S. through dialogue,” Kim was quoted as saying. A political resolution of tensions on the peninsula and denuclearization should proceed in stages, with all sides moving in concert, he said. The Trump administration has demanded that North Korea immediately commit to denuclearization.
North Korea announced Kim’s visit to China fairly quickly, probably in coordination with China’s state media. The first reports were brief, however.
North Korea has been very cautious about coverage of Kim’s recent summits, but has featured them prominently on TV and in newspapers a day or so after they are safely over and Kim has returned to the capital.
Though rumors are likely widespread, there still has been no explicit confirmation in North Korea’s media of the expected summit with Trump.
The recent South Korean summit and the potential U.S. talks have received more attention internationally, but China’s role as an economic lifeline for North Korea makes the talks between Xi and Kim all the more crucial.
Kim needs to make sure that whatever negotiations he has with Trump align to some degree with Beijing’s positions, which could certainly complicate his task ahead.
China’s official Xinhua News Agency said Xi hosted a welcome banquet for Kim on Monday and the two leaders strolled along the coastline at a government guesthouse and had lunch together on Tuesday.
“At a crucial time when the regional situation is developing rapidly, Kim said he came to China again to meet with (Xi) and inform him of the situation,” Xinhua said.
CCTV showed Xi wearing a western business suit and Kim in his standard high-collared Mao suit. They stood on a beach, sat under an awning on an outdoor deck, strolled through lush gardens and sat at a conference table.
“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 China-DPRK relations and major issues of common concern,” Xinhua said, using the initials for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
China is North Korea’s only major ally, although trade has plummeted in recent months as Beijing enforces United Nations economic sanctions in response to the North’s nuclear bomb and ballistic missile tests.
China has also been eager to assert its importance in the process of lowering tensions on the Korean Peninsula. It has called for a halt to weapons tests and large-scale military exercises and a return to six-nation denuclearization talks it previously hosted in Beijing.
It was not known how long the Xi-Kim meeting had been planned or why Dalian was chosen. Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post newspaper cited two unidentified sources as saying that Xi had flown to Dalian on the coast east of Beijing to preside over the official launch of sea trials for China’s first entirely self-built aircraft carrier.
Chinese internet users posting on social media described heavy security in the city and extensive flight delays on Monday. Others said they spotted a set of Red Flag limousines used by state leaders.
As with Kim’s March visit to Beijing, his presence in Dalian was not officially confirmed until he had left China. Reports said his jet flew out of Dalian airport on Tuesday afternoon.
Associated Press writer Eric Talmadge in Pyongyang, North Korea, contributed to this report.