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N Korea at crossroads

Xi pledges support for second Trump-Kim summit

Chinese leader says North's concerns are reasonable and must be solved

Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, dines with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.   © Reuters

BEIJING/SEOUL -- Chinese President Xi Jinping told North Korean leader Kim Jong Un this week that he would help advance talks with U.S. President Donald Trump, state media from both countries reported Thursday.

The reports highlighted the two leaders' close relationship as China uses the prospect of a Trump-Kim summit to gain leverage in trade negotiations with Washington.

China and North Korea showed their "resolute determination" to "jointly advance the political settlement of the Korean Peninsula issue," China's state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.

"It's a message that they would work closer than ever on negotiations for a peace treaty to end the Korean War and on denuclearization," a Chinese expert on the Korean Peninsula told Nikkei.

Kim had hoped the latest trip will help bring a breakthrough in nuclear negotiations with the U.S. He informed Xi of his concerns over North Korea-U. S. relations and the denuclearization talks, reported the official Korean Central News Agency.

North Korea has demanded that sanctions be eased in line with its progress on denuclearization, but the U.S. has insisted the penalties be kept in place throughout the process, putting the two sides at loggerheads.

Xi said that Pyongyang's concerns are reasonable and must be resolved, the KCNA said.

"China stands ready to work with [North Korea] and relevant parties to play a positive and constructive role in maintaining peace and stability" on the peninsula, Xi said, according to Xinhua.

Xi sees a potential summit between Kim and Trump as a potential bargaining chip with the U.S., which has ratcheted up the pressure in trade negotiations.

But Chinese reports did not include any specific comments on easing sanctions or a future visit by Xi to the North. Beijing will maintain its policy of following United Nations sanctions, a Chinese diplomatic source said. China appears hesitant to antagonize the U.S., even while cozying up to North Korea.

Chinese media also dropped subtle reminders about the power dynamics at play. China Central Television showed Kim enthusiastically taking notes when Xi spoke, in one example. 

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