People walk past a television screen showing a news broadcast, featuring North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un during a meeting with with China’s president Xi Jinping, at Seoul Station in Seoul, South Korea. (Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg)

China’s Xi Meets Kim Jong Un for Second Time in Two Months

(Bloomberg) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the port city of Dalian over the past two days, the second meeting between top officials of the allies in less than two months.

The summit came after Kim’s surprise two-day visit to Beijing in late March, his first known trip abroad since taking power in 2011. The most recent talks follow Kim’s meeting with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea on April 27 and an expected one with U.S. President Donald Trump, possibly next month.

Trump said on Twitter he would speak to Xi by phone this morning to discuss trade and North Korea.

Kim’s meetings with Xi in quick succession show that ties are improving rapidly as North Korea seeks talks over its nuclear program. The neighbors, which fought together during the Korean War, had grown apart last year after China backed United Nations sanctions crimping North Korea’s energy imports and sources of foreign cash to pressure it to halt its nuclear and missile tests.

Now China and North Korea’s interests are becoming more aligned. North Korea needs China to boost its economy, while Xi can use closer ties with Kim as leverage in his talks with Trump about trade, according to Zhu Feng, professor of international relations at Nanjing University.

‘Synchronous Measures’

“China is trying to exert its influence,” Zhu said. “If the United States continues to adopt a hostile attitude against China, then China may readjust its North Korea policy.”

Kim expressed the hope that North Korea and the U.S. would “build mutual trust” and “take phased and synchronous measures in a responsible manner” to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. Trump has previously said he wouldn’t lift sanctions until North Korea dismantles its nuclear program.

“As long as relevant parties eliminate the hostile policy and security threats against North Korea, North Korea does not need to have nuclear weapons, and denuclearization is achievable,” Xinhua quoted Kim as saying.

Xi said “positive progress” had been made since the two leaders first met, adding: “I feel happy about it."

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.