North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un and Chinese President Xi Jinping sought to portray strong ties between the two allies, confirming Kim’s secret trip to Beijing on Wednesday.
Due to the heightened security, there was much speculation at the beginning of the week that the reclusive leader of North Korea had visited China, but neither side confirmed this until Wednesday.
In a speech at a banquet in China, Kim described the traditional allies as inseparable “neighboring brothers” with a relationship molded by a “sacred mutual fight” to achieve socialist ideals, according to KCNA, the state-controlled official news agency of North Korea.
In addition to the trip being his first abroad as leader, his talk with Xi was his first meeting with a foreign head of state.
The unofficial visit, which lasted from Sunday to Wednesday, was an attempt to demonstrate to the world that they support each other, ahead of Kim Jong-Un’s meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-In and US President Donald Trump in the coming weeks. For China, this meeting had the added importance of reminding to the world that China was, is and will be one of North Korea’s most important allies and is a player not to be sidelined in denuclearization talks.
Official reports from both countries depicted in effusive terms warm ties between the two leaders in an effort to downplay recent tensions in relations over Kim’s development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.
Ties in recent months were tense as China supported tougher UN sanctions on North Korea and suspended imports of coal, iron ore, seafood and textiles. Pyongyang last year seemingly sought to humiliate Beijing by timing some of its missile tests with major global summits in China, while its state media accused Chinese state-controlled media of “going under the armpit of the US” by criticizing the North.
The North’s diplomatic outreach this year follows a tenser 2017 when it conducted its most powerful nuclear test to date and tested three intercontinental ballistic missiles designed to target the US mainland, in an effort to finally put an end to the international isolation imposed and as such improve its ravaged economy.