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N Korea at crossroads

Xi tells Kim Jong Un he will work for peace on peninsula

Leaders of China and North Korea exchange messages

Chinese President Xi Jinping and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walk during Xi's visit in Pyongyang in June 2019.   © Reuters

BEIJING (Kyodo) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping has told North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that Beijing will work to maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported Monday.

Kim, for his part, told Xi that North Korea is eager to strengthen ties with China and that their friendly relations will be developed in accordance with the requirements of the times and their aspirations, according to the news agency.

The remarks by the leaders were exchanged at a meeting on Monday in Beijing between Song Tao, head of the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, and Ri Ryong Nam, North Korea's new ambassador to China, Xinhua said.

The meeting was held after U.S. foreign and defense chiefs agreed last week with Japanese and South Korean counterparts, respectively, that they should join hands to stand guard against China's rise in the region and tackle North Korea's nuclear threat.

As their ties with the United States have shown few signs of improvement soon since President Joe Biden took office in January, China and North Korea are expected to deepen their cooperation to resist political pressure from the new U.S. administration.

U.S.-North Korea negotiations on denuclearization and sanctions relief have been at a standstill, while Beijing and Washington are at loggerheads over several matters, including trade, state-of-the-art technology and alleged human rights abuses.

Top diplomats from the United States and China held two-day talks from Thursday in Alaska -- the first in-person contact between high-level officials of the two countries since the change of U.S. administration.

On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and China's top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, acknowledged that they had "candid" discussions during the gathering, but they failed to make significant progress in improving bilateral relations.

As for U.S.-North Korea ties, Biden's predecessor Donald Trump met with Kim three times in 2018 and 2019 in the hope of convincing Pyongyang to give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Negotiations, however, made little progress during Trump's four years in the White House that ended on Jan. 20 this year, with the two nations at odds over issues such as the degree of sanctions relief Pyongyang should receive for taking denuclearization steps.

On Thursday, North Korea pledged to ignore U.S. attempts to hold bilateral talks unless Washington withdraws its hostile policy toward Pyongyang, rapping the Biden administration for trying to use North Korea-U.S. contact as a "means for gaining time."

North Korea and the United States have no diplomatic relations.

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