BEIJING (BLOOMBERG, AFP) - President Xi Jinping called for stable China-North Korea ties in a message to Kim Jong Un shortly before Donald Trump makes his first visit to Asia as US president next week.
Xi sent the note after Kim congratulated him last week on a second term as general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported. The friendly tone contrasts with the recent war of words between Trump and Kim over North Korea's missile and nuclear programmes.
"I wish that under the new situation the Chinese side would make efforts with the DPRK side to promote the relations between the two parties and the two countries to sustainable soundness and stable development," Xi wrote, according to KCNA, referring to North Korea by its formal name.
He added that the two countries should make a "positive contribution" to "defending regional peace and stability and common prosperity."
Kim last week extended his "sincere congratulations" to Xi, saying the Chinese people entered the "road of building socialism with Chinese characteristics" with Xi at the core.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular press briefing in Beijing Thursday (Nov 2) that North Korea’s message was just one among many others received. Xi had responded “out of politeness,” she said. The last time KCNA reported a message from Xi was in July 2016.
Analysts say that such exchanges have become extremely rare under the current leaders, even though Beijing and Pyongyang traditionally sent greetings and congratulations on each other’s key anniversaries in the past.
Although China has backed North Korea since the 1950s, relations between the countries have hit rough patches as Xi's administration backed United Nations sanctions targeting coal, seafood and textiles. China has sought to defuse tensions between the US and North Korea while also resisting moves that could lead to the collapse of Kim's regime.
Trump has stepped up pressure on Kim's regime this year to prevent him from gaining the capability to strike the US with a nuclear weapon. He will embark Friday on a five-nation tour through Asia - his longest foreign trip yet - with stops in Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, Vietnam and the Philippines.
In recent months, Trump labelled Kim "Rocket Man" and told the UN that the U.S. would "totally destroy" North Korea if it attacks.
On Sept 22, Kim issued an unprecedented statement for a North Korean leader, using the first person repeatedly to attack Trump.
"Now that Trump has denied the existence of and insulted me and my country in front of the eyes of the world and made the most ferocious declaration of a war in history that he would destroy the DPRK, we will consider with seriousness exercising of a corresponding, highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history," Kim wrote in comments carried by state-run media.