Xi is the first Chinese president to visit North Korea in 14 years after relations between the Cold War era allies deteriorated over Pyongyang's nuclear provocations and Beijing's subsequent backing of UN sanctions.

People watch TV news showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un shaking hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping, at Seoul railway station in Seoul on June 20, 2019.
People watch TV news showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un shaking hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping, at Seoul railway station in Seoul on June 20, 2019. (AFP)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Pyongyang on Thursday during a historic visit to burnish an uneasy alliance, with the two men each facing challenges of their own with US President Donald Trump.

With the North's nuclear negotiations with the US at a standstill, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un told his country's key diplomatic supporter and main provider of trade and aid that he was "willing to be patient," Chinese state media reported, but wanted "the parties concerned" to meet him halfway. 

Chinese state media also reported that Xi told Kim the international community expects the US and North Korea to restart a productive dialogue.

State broadcaster CCTV quoted Xi as saying the situation on the Korean Peninsula "concerns the peace and stability of the region."

"In the past year, the peninsular issue has seen bright prospects for resolution through dialogue and won the recognition and expectation of the international community," Xi said, apparently referring to meetings between Kim and President Donald Trump in Singapore and Vietnam that failed to produce solid results. Those talks are now stalled.

Describing the issue as "highly complex and sensitive," Xi said his government is willing to play a constructive role in the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.

Xi arrived for a two-day state visit to North Korea earlier on Thursday morning, where he held talks with Kim about the stalled negotiations with Washington over North Korea's nuclear weapons.

China's official Xinhua news agency reported that Xi was accompanied by his wife, Peng Liyuan, and several Communist Party officials. He is the first Chinese president to visit North Korea in 14 years.

The summit comes as both Xi and Kim are locked in separate disputes with the United States — Xi over trade and Kim over his nuclear weapons.

Roadmap to achieve denuclearisation

A Xinhua commentary said China could play a unique and constructive role in breaking the cycle of mistrust between North Korea and the US so they can work out a roadmap to achieve denuclearisation.

The US is demanding that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons development before international sanctions are lifted. North Korea is seeking a step-by-step approach in which a step toward its denuclearisation would be matched by a concession from the US, notably a relaxation of economic sanctions.

China backs what it calls a "suspension for suspension" proposal. The Xinhua said both sides "need to have reasonable expectations and refrain from imposing unilateral and unrealistic demands."

'Right direction'

Experts say Xi will likely endorse North Korea's calls for an incremental disarmament process.

Chinese and North Korea media have said Xi would stay in Pyongyang for two days. His meeting with Kim would mark their fifth summit since Kim entered nuclear diplomacy with the United States and South Korea early last year.

In an essay published in both countries' official media before his trip, Xi praised North Korea for moving in the "right direction" by politically resolving issues on the peninsula.

He did not mention Kim's nuclear diplomacy with the US in the article, much of which focused on lauding the neighbours' seven-decade relationship. Xi said his visit will "strengthen strategic communication and exchange" between the traditional, though sometimes strained, allies.

The nations fought together in the 1950-53 Korean War against the United States, South Korea and their allies, but there has been friction in recent years, especially over the North's relentless push for nuclear weapons.

Source: AFP