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Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday accepted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s invitation to visit Pyongyang, the DPRK’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.
North Korean media on Wednesday confirmed reports that the DPRK leader had visited China from Sunday to Wednesday – his first overseas trip since coming to power in December 2011.
In reports also carried by China’s Xinhua News Agency, KCNA reported that Xi had “warmly welcomed” Kim to the Chinese capital.
The North Korean leader reportedly “unofficially visited” China with his wife Ri Sol Ju and a delegation of high-ranking DPRK officials on the invitation of Xi.
The summit between Kim and Xi – the first between Chinese and North Korean leaders since 2011 – took place at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, with senior officials from both two countries also in attendance.
“The Supreme Leaders of the two countries exchanged in-depth opinions on significant agendas including the development of the amicable relations between the DPRK and China and the issue of managing the Korean peninsula,” the KCNA said in a Korean dispatch.
During Monday’s summit, KCNA reported, Kim invited the Chinese President to Pyongyang.
“Comrade Kim Jong Un invited Comrade Xi Jinping to visit the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea at a convenient time under the name of our party and government,” the media said.
“The invitation has been pleasantly accepted.”
Monday saw Kim call for “promoting friendly relations by meeting Chinese comrades on a more frequent basis.”
During the summit, Kim told Xi that it was the “firm determination” of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) and his government to take bilateral ties to the “new level.”
“Comrade Kim Jong Un’s unofficial visit to People’s Republic of China… Became a crucial opportunity to expand and develop the friendly relationship between the DPRK and China to a new and higher level,” KCNA reported.
“The Dear Respected Supreme Leader said the DPRK and China should consolidate the unity and cooperation between the two countries by strengthening strategic communication and strategic and tactical cooperation.”
The surprise meeting between Kim and Xi comes ahead of a third inter-Korean summit slated for late April and planned talks between the DPRK leader and U.S. President Donald Trump.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong last month delivered Kim’s intention to invite South Korean President Moon Jae-in to visit Pyongyang during a visit to the South by a high-level North Korean delegation.
The two Koreas later agreed to hold the summit at the Peace House on the southern part of Panmunjom.
KCNA said Monday’s meeting was held in an “open-hearted, constructive and sincere atmosphere” while Xi said Pyongyang’s efforts had “led to the creation of a favorable atmosphere on the Korean peninsula.”
“[Xi] emphasized it is the strategic choice and unwavering determination of the Chinese Party and government to consider the China-DPRK friendship as significant and succeed and develop continuously,” the North Korean outlet said.
“The recent positive changes in the situation of the Korean peninsula are the result of the strategic determination of respected leader Kim Jong Un and efforts made by the DPRK Party and government,” Xi was quoted as having said by KCNA.
Though while a Xinhua report on the meeting said that Kim Jong Un had used the meeting to reiterate his support for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and talks with the U.S., this was not mentioned in the KCNA report.
Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the DPRK Supreme People’s Assembly Ri Su Yong and DPRK foreign minister Ri Yong Ho also attended the China-North Korea summit, along with vice-chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) Kim Yong Chol.
Vice-chairman of the WPK Central Committee Choe Ryong Hae, vice-chairman of the WPK Central Committee and director of the Organization and Guidance Department Pak Kwang Ho and vice department director of the C.C., WPK Jo Yong Won were also present.
Kim and his party arrived in Beijing on Monday, the KCNA reported, with a welcoming ceremony and the summit being held upon his arrival.
Before departing for Pyongyang on Tuesday, Kim made a tour of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and attended a luncheon provided by Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse.
KCNA said Kim had sent a message to Xi to express his gratitude before leaving Dandong station near the DPRK-PRC border.
The South Korean presidential office on Wednesday morning told reporters that the Chinese government had notified Seoul that it would make an announcement on Kim’s visit to Beijing “soon.”
Yoon Young-chan, Senior Presidential Secretary for Public Relations at the Blue House, said Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiech would soon travel to the South as a “special representative” of Xi Jinping.
“Member of the Political Bureau Yang Jiech will expound on the results of the summit between North Korea and China during his visit to the South,” Yoon said.
“There will be a discussion between the South and China on various pending issues including the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”
Yang is due to hold a meeting with head of the presidential National Security Office (NSO) Chung Eui-Yong and make a courtesy visit to South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
Neither the Ministry of Unification (MOU) or the Blue House have commented directly on the Kim-Xi summit.
“However, I believe the improvement of relations between the North and China, which came ahead of the South-North and North-U.S. summit, will be helpful in resolving the issues of the Korean peninsula including denuclearization and establishing a peace settlement,” unification ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun said during Wednesday’s news briefing.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: KCNA