China's Xi hopes USA, N. Korea will 'meet halfway'

Kim arrived in Beijing on Tuesday for his fourth visit to Pyongyang´s sole major diplomatic friend

Kim arrived in Beijing on Tuesday for his fourth visit to Pyongyang´s sole major diplomatic friend

Chinese President Xi Jinping accepted an offer to visit Pyongyang after meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, North Korea's state media reported on Thursday. Mr Kim has been visiting Beijing this week to project an image of a strong Pyongyang-Beijing alliance in advance of a second potential summit.

On Tuesday, Kim and Chinese President Xi Jinping met for about an hour to discuss the looming North Korea-US summit, which is expected to take place this month or next.

South Korea's Ambassador to the USA says he is hopeful that a second meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will take place.

Xi agreed with the "principled issues" raised by North Korea in talks with the U.S. and that its "reasonable points of concern should be resolved properly", according to Pyongyang's official KCNA news agency.

Trump said last week that he will be setting up a meeting with Kim "in the not-too-distant future" to restart talks about the North's nuclear programs after their summit in Singapore last summer.

Tuesday was Kim's birthday.

Kim, for his part, welcomed China's readiness to "jointly study and steer" the situation to help ease tensions, as well as the positive role Beijing continues to play in the negotiations process, KCNA said.

But he's also made the return of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea a key political issue at home. The visit wrapped up Kim's two-day stay in the city, after he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Tuesday.

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The visit coincided with negotiations between USA and Chinese officials in Beijing to resolve a bruising trade war between the world's two biggest economies.

Kim's visit comes only a week after his New Year's address in which he stressed the need to improve health care in North Korea, saying: "We must modernize pharmaceutical and medical equipment factories, upgrading medical institutions and raising the level of medical service... so that all people may realize the superiority of the socialist public health care system".

"North Korea is looking for something where. they would be rewarded for meeting certain goals, rather than sanctions being lifted only after CVID (complete, verifiable and irreversible destruction) of their nuclear facilities, which is what the USA is adamant on", said Graham Ong-Webb, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

Kim's visit also marks the 70th anniversary of ties between Pyongyang and Beijing.

China is the North's sole major ally, main diplomatic backer and a key trade partner, whose forces were instrumental in fighting for it during the 1950-53 Korean War.

Some analysts say China could use its cooperation on the North Korean issue as a bargaining chip in the USA trade talks.

Recently, China may be doing more of the latter, says James Kim, pointing to ongoing rumours of "de facto loosening of sanctions implementation in China". Experts agree that while neither the United States nor China is "winning" in the trade war, China may be at a disadvantage.

South Korea's President Moon Jae-in urged North Korea to take firmer disarmament measures and the U.S.to reward them, suggesting Thursday he'll push for sanction exemptions to restart dormant economic cooperation projects with the North.

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