China’s Xi praises North Korea’s Kim for Trump summit, promises support

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Chinese President Xi Jinping raise a toast in Beijing, China, in this undated photo released June 20, 2018 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency. KCNA via REUTERS

BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese President Xi Jinping offered high praise to visiting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday, lauding the “positive” outcome of his historic summit with U.S. President Donald Trump and promising unwavering friendship.

Meeting Kim on his third trip to China this year, and just a week after Kim met Trump in Singapore on June 12, Xi said China was willing to keep playing a positive role to promote the peace process on the Korean peninsula.

Kim’s visit was the latest in a flurry of diplomatic contacts, and unlike during his previous two visits to China, the government announced his presence while he was in the country rather than waiting for him to leave.

Xi told Kim he was very happy to see the “positive” outcome of his meeting with Trump, and the important consensus reached on denuclearisation and setting up a lasting peace mechanism, according to Chinese state television.

“No matter the changes in the international and regional situation, China’s party and government’s resolute position on being dedicated to consolidating and developing Sino-North Korea relations will not change,” the report cited Xi as saying.

“The Chinese people’s friendship for the North Korean people will not change, and China’s support for socialist North Korea will not change,” Xi added.

Kim told Xi he hoped to work with China and other parties to push the peace process, Chinese state television said.

Asked about Kim’s latest Beijing visit, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, “we are watching it closely”.

She said Washington was in continuing communication with the North Korea government and added: “We look forward to them following through on their commitments and agreements that they made last week at the summit.”

At the Singapore summit, the first meeting between a serving U.S. president and a North Korean leader, Kim reaffirmed a commitment to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula”, while Trump said he would end “provocative” joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises.

Although Trump has hailed the Singapore summit as a success, skeptics have questioned whether he achieved anything new, given that Pyongyang, which has rejected unilateral nuclear disarmament, appeared to make no new concrete commitments.

The United States has led an international sanctions drive to press North Korea to abandon development of nuclear weapons capable of reaching the United States and Trump has expressed concern that China may be easing up on its enforcement of these steps.

South Korea and the Pentagon announced they would halt the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian military drill scheduled for August.

At the summit, Trump also said North Korea had agreed to return remains of U.S. soldiers missing from the 1950-53 Korean War and U.S. officials said on Tuesday that that process could start within the next few days.

While not formally billed as a state visit, China gave Kim most of the trappings of one, including a welcome ceremony with honor guard in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.

Xi greeted Kim warmly, in images carried on state television. The two men were accompanied by their wives.

Xi said he was pleased to see North Korea’s decision to promote economic reforms, adding that China’s own reform and opening up process had meant the Chinese people’s eyes had been open to the world.

North Korean state media had not mentioned Kim’s visit by early evening.

A Kim trip to China to discuss his summit with Trump had been widely anticipated in diplomatic circles. China is North Korea’s most important diplomatic and economic backer but has been angered by its nuclear and missile tests.

South Korea’s foreign ministry spokesman said South Korea and China shared the strategic goal of completely denuclearising the Korean peninsula.

“Our government hopes China will play a constructive role in resolving this problem,” ministry spokesman Noh Kyu-deok told a regular briefing.

“We hope Chairman Kim Jong Un’s visit will contribute to that.”

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