April 19, 2018 12:02
Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to visit Pyongyang in June, reports said Wednesday. Beijing is moving fast for fear of being left out of the geopolitical game as North Korea and the U.S. are making preparations for a summit.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un invited Xi during a surprise visit to Beijing in late March.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying only said Wednesday she had no detailed information to provide about a possible visit. But she did not deny the reports, adding that China and North Korea have "a tradition" of high-level mutual visits.
The leaders of North Korea and China have studiously ignored each other over the past five years as North Korea angered Beijing with a series of nuclear and missile tests and China joined international sanctions against the regime.
Pyongyang conducted its third nuclear test in February 2013, only a month ahead of Xi's inauguration. Enraged, Xi kept Kim's special envoy Choe Ryong-hae waiting for two days in May that year when he wanted to brief him on Pyongyang's nuclear program.
Relations reached their nadir after the assassination of Kim's half-brother Jong-nam, who was under Chinese government protection, in Malaysia last year.
Xi was at first expected to visit Pyongyang around July 27, the 65th anniversary of armistice of the Korean War, or Sept. 9, the anniversary of the North Korean regime's founding. But Beijing seems to have concluded that it cannot afford to idle the time away.
China's official People's Daily in an editorial on Wednesday insisted on the importance of China's role, saying friendship and cooperation between Beijing and Pyongyang will play a constructive role on the Korean Peninsula.
Meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, U.S. President Donald Trump thanked Xi for being "incredibly generous" in helping enforce sanctions on the North.
"They've never been this way with the United States," he claimed. "They have more respect for us, perhaps our leadership... President Xi has been very strong on the [North Korean] border, much stronger than anyone thought they would be."
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