Xi Jinping accepts offer to visit Pyongyang, North Korea says

The train used by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un departs from Beijing on Wednesday

The train used by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un departs from Beijing on Wednesday

Chinese President Xi Jinping offered North Korean leader Kim Jong Un firm backing in deadlocked nuclear talks with the United States and reasserted Beijing's key role in the wider process, according to the two allies' state media Thursday.

Kim visited a pharmaceutical plant that makes traditional Chinese medicine on Wednesday and met Xi again for lunch at a hotel before heading back to North Korea by train.

A special train believed to be carrying Kim Jong Un departed Beijing on Wednesday after a two-day visit by the North Korean leader to the Chinese capital.

Kim's trip to China - his fourth in the past 10 months - was believed to be an effort to coordinate with his only major ally ahead of a possible second summit with President Trump.

At the daily Foreign Ministry briefing Tuesday, spokesman Lu Kang gave no details about Kim's schedule or China's role as an intermediary between the USA and North Korea.

Analysts say China could use the North Korean issue as a bargaining chip in the negotiations, but Beijing's foreign ministry rejected any link between Kim's trip and the talks.

Experts think Kim's China trip was meant to discuss strategies with his closest ally ahead of a possible summit with Trump, adding that it also appears aimed at strengthening the North's negotiating leverage by demonstrating its strong ties with Beijing.

"On Secretary Pompeo's visit to North Korea, we don't have any travel to announce at all", US State Department spokesperson Katina Adams said in response to Radio Free Asia's request for comment Tuesday.

Following their historic meeting in Singapore last June, negotiations have somewhat stalled, as the White House demands that North Korea dismantle its nuclear program first, before the U.S. would lift any of its punitive measures on the country.

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But progress has since stalled with Pyongyang and Washington disagreeing over what that means.

Kim reiterated a pledge from his New Year's speech that the North would try to make a second summit achieve a result that the global community would welcome, Xinhua said.

The second summit would also expedite an unprecedented planned visit by Kim to Seoul, Moon said.

The meeting was followed by a dinner hosted by Xi and his wife, Yonhap said. "If he wants to shift his focus to the development of the economy, he needs China's cooperation", said Lu Chao, a North Korea expert at China's Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences.

Kim said in his New Year speech he was ready to meet Trump any time to achieve their common goal of denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. Mr. Kim was accompanied by his wife, Ri Sol Ju, the news agency said.

Xi commended North Korea for its denuclearisation efforts and said China supported the resolution of concerns through dialogue.

Asked if China is seeking to use Kim's visit as leverage in trade negotiations with the US, he added, "China's diplomacy incorporates rich and diverse contents".

Ties between China and North Korea, which had frayed as Pyongyang stepped up its missile and nuclear tests up to late 2017, warmed over the past year as Kim engaged with China, South Korea and the United States.

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