Xi urged Trump to ease North Korea sanctions in 'timely' fashion

US President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping at the start of their bilateral meeting at the G-20 leaders summit in Osaka on June 29, 2019.
US President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping at the start of their bilateral meeting at the G-20 leaders summit in Osaka on June 29, 2019.

BEIJING (AFP) - Chinese President Xi Jinping urged US President Donald Trump to "show flexibility" towards North Korea, including the "timely" easing of sanctions, at the Group of 20 summit last week, China's foreign minister said on Tuesday (July 2).

Xi visited North Korea prior to meeting Trump at the G-20 summit in Japan last Saturday, and analysts had said the Chinese leader could use the trip as leverage in his trade war talks with the US leader.

Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un the next day at the Demilitarised Zone dividing North and South Korea.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters on Tuesday that Xi "pushed for the US to show flexibility and meet the DPRK (North Korea) halfway, including the timely easing of sanctions against the DPRK and finding a solution to each other's concerns through dialogue".

China and North Korea have worked to improve relations in the past year after they deteriorated as Beijing backed a series of UN sanctions against its Cold War-era ally over its nuclear activities.

But Beijing has sought to keep Pyongyang within its sphere of influence and Kim met Xi four times in China in the past year.

A week before the G-20 summit in Osaka, Xi became the first Chinese leader to visit North Korea in 14 years in a trip analysts said was meant to showcase China's influence over the North prior to trade talks with the US.

After his impromptu stop on North Korean soil over the weekend, Trump said he and Kim agreed to restart working-level talks on a denuclearisation deal. The talks ground to a halt after the two leaders' second summit, in Hanoi in late February, abruptly ended without an agreement.