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International relations

China reminds North Korea who its best friend is

Beijing prioritizes discussion with Kim over Moon's post-summit phone call

BEIJING/SEOUL -- Foreign Minister Wang Yi reaffirmed China's support for North Korea's moves toward denuclearization on Thursday, as Beijing continues efforts to extend its influence on the Korean Peninsula ahead of the coming U.S.-North Korea summit.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, hosting Wang in Pyongyang, hailed China's contributions toward peace and stability on the peninsula, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Wang was making the first visit by a Chinese foreign minister to North Korea since 2007. The men reportedly discussed Kim's summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, which is expected in June, as well as a potential visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to the North.

Wang also repeatedly assured North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and other officials of Beijing's support on Wednesday, when they met to discuss Pyongyang's plans and concerns regarding the denuclearization process. The Chinese official was also briefed on last week's North-South summit.

China supports an end to the state of war on the peninsula, and backs North Korea's decision to shift its strategic focus to economic development and the resolution of the country's legitimate security concerns during the process of denuclearization, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported Wang as saying.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in discussed the outcome of his meeting with Kim by phone with the Japanese, American and Russian leaders, but South Korean sources say he has not yet managed to arrange a call with China. Beijing could be sending a message to both Washington and Seoul by attending to Pyongyang's concerns first.

At a joint statement from the summit, Moon and Kim promised to pursue talks this year toward declaring an end to the Korean War and turning the 1953 armistice into a peace treaty. Seoul wants to first officially put an end to the war in a trilateral meeting with North Korea and the U.S., and to later discuss a peace treaty in a four-way dialogue with China, which was also a party to the 1950-53 conflict. But China, which hopes to maintain its influence in the Korean Peninsula, is opposed to the trilateral framework.

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