Beijing, March 28 (IANS) North Korean leader Kim Jong-un secretly met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing and pledged to denuclearise the Korean peninsula, surprising the world.
The surreptitious meet between the leaders came before Kim’s talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and US President Donald Trump in April and May, respectively.
A special train used by his father and grandfather in the past ferried Kim to Beijing on Sunday, but that was not confirmed by North or China until Wednesday morning when Xinhua put out a story about the reclusive leader having met Xi.
The news outlet described Kim’s visit from Sunday to Wednesday as “unofficial” and said the North Korean leader and Xi discussed the Korean Peninsula nuclear crisis.
Kim told Xi that the situation on the Korean Peninsula was “improving” as Pyongyang took the initiative to ease tensions and decided to talk to Seoul and Washington.
The development contradicted a view that China, North’s sole ally, had found itself sitting on the fence when Kim agreed to directly talk to Moon and Trump.
This may give Kim more leverage when holding talks with Trump.
China is North’s sole ally and their ties date back to the Korean War in which Mao Zedong’s elder son died fighting against the South. It is also believed that the North pays heed to what Beijing says.
However, an isolated North has frustrated China in the past one year by firing off ballistic missiles and carrying out nuclear tests. Experts say China sees the North as a buffer state between it and the US ally South Korea.
Kim said that North Korea “was determined to transform the inter-Korean ties into a relationship of reconciliation, cooperation and hold summit between the heads of the two sides”.
Pyongyang was willing to have a dialogue with the US and hold a summit of the two countries, he said.
“The issue of denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula can be resolved, if South Korea and the US respond to our efforts with goodwill, create an atmosphere of peace and stability while taking progressive and synchronous measures for the realisation of peace,” said Kim.
Xi said positive changes had taken place on the Korean Peninsula since this year and China appreciated the important efforts made by North Korea.
Xi said China sticks to the goal of denuclearisation of the peninsula, safeguarding peace and stability on the peninsula and solving problems through dialogue and consultation.
He also said that China will continue to play a constructive role on the issue and work with all parties, including North Korea, towards a thaw in the situation in the peninsula.
Meanwhile, Washington said China briefed the Trump administration on the visit. “We see this development as further evidence that our campaign of maximum pressure is creating the appropriate atmosphere for dialogue with North Korea,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.
Japan, on the other hand, asked China for explanations on the visit. “We want to receive a complete explanation from China,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.
(Gaurav Sharma is the IANS correspondent in Beijing. He can be contacted at [email protected])