North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing this week, his first known overseas trip since he came to power in 2011, and his first meeting with another head of state.
Chinese state media reported today that Kim made the visit, which was not announced publicly, ahead of planned meetings with South Korean and American leaders, including President Donald Trump. He was in Beijing from Sunday to Wednesday.
Kim, 34, said he is “willing to hold dialogue with the United States and hold summits between North Korea and the United States,” according to China’s official New China News Agency.
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He also said denuclearisation is possible. “If South Korea and the United States respond to our efforts in good faith [and] create a peaceful and stable atmosphere,” and if “the current situation on the Korean peninsula has begun to develop in the positive direction,” the news agency reported.
The agency also published photos of Kim and Xi shaking hands against a backdrop of North Korean and Chinese flags.
The meetings were held in complete secrecy. Rumours that Kim was in Beijing began when a mysterious, armoured North Korean train arrived in the Chinese capital on Monday night.
China is North Korea’s only major ally and trading partner. Yet the two countries’ relations have worsened in recent years as Beijing is unhappy with Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile development, and North Korea has claimed more independence from its neighbour. China has supported several tough UN sanctions that have restricted North Korea’s ability to export their goods.
Yet Kim has made several gestures in recent months to defuse tensions between his country and the US, South Korea and China. Last month, North Korea sent a delegation, led by Kim’s sister Kim Yo -jong to the Winter Olympics in South Korea. This led to a historic offer from Kim to meet Trump, who quickly accepted.