DALIAN • Chinese President Xi Jinping has met North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un for the second time in two months, continuing a flurry of diplomacy over the North's nuclear programme.
The meeting in the Chinese port city of Dalian near the North Korean border came as Beijing tries to regain a central role in the fast-moving diplomacy that has dramatically eased tension on the Korean peninsula.
The news was announced late yesterday by the two nations' state-controlled media. Chinese broadcaster CCTV said Mr Kim arrived in Dalian on Monday and left yesterday. Xinhua, the official news agency, reported that the two leaders "took a stroll and attended a luncheon".
In unusually positive language, Mr Xi said the North Korean leader had come "to meet me again just after 40-odd days" and "at a crucial time when the Korean peninsula situation is undergoing profound and complex changes", according to Xinhua.
North Korean state media said Mr Kim was "very pleased" that the relationship with China was reaching a high point, and North Korea would cooperate with China more actively as the situation on the Korean peninsula changed.
The two leaders "opened their hearts and had warm conversations", state news agency KCNA reported. Mr Kim had made a dramatic train journey to Beijing in March, his first known trip abroad since assuming power in 2011.
He used his official aircraft to make the short flight to Dalian, in what was his first known international flight since assuming power.
The latest visit came just before Chinese Premier Li Keqiang was scheduled to go to Tokyo today to meet South Korean President Moon Jae In and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The three are expected to discuss North Korea's denuclearisation, among other issues.
Mr Kim had met Mr Moon, who is eager to help the North with economic aid, in a historic North-South summit last month.
Chinese analysts speculated that Mr Kim went to Dalian to ask Mr Xi for sanctions relief. At the urging of the Trump administration, China grudgingly voted last year for United Nations sanctions that have hurt the North's economy, draining its reserves of foreign currency.
By meeting Mr Xi again, Mr Kim would also likely be trying to get China's backing for his diplomatic overtures to US President Donald Trump, while assuring North Korea's longtime ally that it is not being left out of the diplomatic manoeuvring with Washington.
Mr Trump and Mr Kim are expected to meet later this month or next month. Singapore is believed to be one of the most likely contenders for the venue.
Mr Trump said on Twitter yesterday that he would speak with Mr Xi by telephone, calling the Chinese leader "my friend".
"The primary topics will be trade, where good things will happen, and North Korea, where relationships and trust are building," the US President said.