North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has visited China at the invitation of President Xi Jinping and reaffirmed his commitment to denuclearization during their first summit, the two countries' media said Wednesday.
The North's leader made an "unofficial" visit to China from Sunday to Wednesday, accompanied by his wife Ri Sol-ju and key officials, including de facto No. 2 figure Choe Ryong-hae, according to the North's state-run radio.
It was Kim's first foreign trip since he took office in late 2011.
The summit came as Kim plans to meet the leaders of South Korea and the United States in the coming months.
His trip was seen as aimed at mending long-frayed ties with China, North Korea's sole ally and key economic benefactor, which has joined international sanctions over the North's nuclear and missile programs.
|These file photos show past meetings in Beijing by top leaders of North Korea and China, always kept secret until the conclusion of the visit by the North's leader, and mostly taking place at critical diplomatic junctures for Pyongyang. From left: Kim Il-sung (L) of North Korea meets China's Deng Xiaoping in September 1990; Kim Jong-il (L) of North Korea meets China's Ziang Zemin in May 2000; Kim Jong-un (L) meets China's Xi Jinping during his March 25-28, 2018, visit. In the case of Kim Jong-un, he traveled outside of his country for the first time since taking power in late 2011 to meet Xi ahead of his planned summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in late April and with U.S. President Donald Trump in May. (Yonhap) (END)|
By holding the meeting, Kim also appeared intent on securing diplomatic leverage ahead of talks with Seoul and Washington over North Korea's nuclear programs. Kim is set to hold summits with President Moon Jae-in in late April and is supposed to meet U.S. President Donald Trump by May.
For China, the summit also seemed to offer a chance to highlight its role as a mediator in resolving North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.
The North's leader told Xi that the situation on the Korean Peninsula is starting to "get better" as it has taken an initiative to ease tensions and propose for peace talks, according to China's Xinhua News Agency.
"It is our consistent stance to be committed to denuclearization on the peninsula," in accordance with the will of late founder Kim Il-sung and former leader Kim Jong-il, Kim was quoted as saying by the report.
Trump has agreed to meet with Kim after South Korean envoys relayed Kim's expression of his commitment to denuclearization.
|This screen capture from China's CCTV on March 28, 2018, shows North Korea's top leader Kim Jong-un (2nd from L) and his wife Ri Sol-ju (L) posing for photos with Chinese President Xi Jinping (2nd from R) and his wife Peng Liyuan in Beijing. After days of secrecy despite signs of such a meeting, the two countries confirmed that Kim traveled to Beijing from March 25-28 at Xi's invitation. This is Kim's first known overseas trip since taking power in late 2011. (Yonhap) (END)|
North Korea's leader also officially revealed his willingness to hold summits with the leaders of South Korea and the U.S., according to Xinhua. North Korea's state media has kept mum over news about those planned summits.
Kim said that North Korea's denuclearization is up to the South and the U.S.
"The issue of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula can be resolved, if South Korea and the U.S. respond to our efforts with goodwill, create an atmosphere of peace and stability while taking progressive and synchronous measures for the realization of peace," he was quoted as saying by Xinhua.
During the summit, Xi expressed a "warm welcome" to Kim, saying that ties between Beijing and Pyongyang should be continuously developed.
North Korea's state news agency reported that Kim invited Xi to Pyongyang at his convenient time and the Chinese leader accepted it.
Kim Jung-mi email@example.com