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North Korea Crisis

Kim Jong Un meets China's Xi again ahead of Trump summit

North's leader says denuclearization possible if 'hostile' policies end

Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, walks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a May 7-8 meeting in Dalian in northeastern China's Liaoning Province.   © Xinhua/AP

DALIAN/BEIJING -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday and Tuesday in the northern Chinese city of Dalian, China's state-owned Xinhua News Agency reported.

The two leaders reaffirmed the importance of China-North Korea relations in their second round of recent talks, a follow-up to their meeting in March.

The North Korean leader's second visit in a little over a month to China, to which he traveled by plane, appears designed to showcase the North's bond with China. This show of unity could give Kim leverage heading into talks with U.S. President Donald Trump, planned for late May or early June.

Xi praised Kim for making "a special trip to China to meet me again just after 40-odd days, at a crucial time when the Korean Peninsula situation is undergoing profound and complex changes."

Kim said the reason of his visit was to "inform" Xi of the situation, "hoping to strengthen strategic communication and cooperation with China."

Kim was accompanied by senior officials including his sister Kim Yo Jong. Beijing's team included Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Wang Huning, a member of the Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee who ranks No. 5 in the party hierarchy.

During the talks, Xi said China supported the "denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," and "talks between the U.S. and North Korea, which will lead to the resolution of issues on the peninsula."

"North Korea has as its consistent position the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," Kim responded. "North Korea no longer needs to possess nuclear weapons, and denuclearization of the peninsula can be realized, if only some [countries] would stop hostile policies toward North Korea."

Kim went on to say that "the people concerned must be responsible and gradually take steps to advance the denuclearization of the peninsula."

State-run China Central Television broadcast a full 9 minutes of the meeting, aiming to underscore the two leaders' rapid rapprochement. Throughout the event, Kim wore an intense expression, perhaps a reflection of the challenges that await.

American officials have raised the bar for the North's denuclearization ahead of Kim and Trump's summit. Since the beginning of May, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, both noted hawks, have begun to demand a "permanent, verifiable and irreversible" dismantling of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons -- a stronger version of the "complete, verifiable and irreversible" denuclearization that has long been the goal in North Korea policy circles.

This new demand may have pushed Kim to make this week's visit and seek assistance from Xi in handling Washington. Some believe Xi is in Dalian to inspect China's first homegrown aircraft carrier, which is expected to embark on a test voyage soon, and Kim's visit may have been planned around that event.

Yet Beijing also views the meeting as a way to keep the U.S. from seizing sole control of any Korean peace process. Xi is slated to speak by phone with Trump immediately after Tuesday's talks with Kim.

Nikkei staff writers Sotaro Suzuki in Seoul, Akihide Anzai and Eri Sugiura in Tokyo contributed to this story.

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