Chinese leader Xi Jinping will make his first visit to North Korea as president on Thursday, state-run media from both countries reported Monday, just over a week before Xi is due to meet U.S. leader Donald Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe separately on the sidelines of the Osaka Group of 20 summit.
“At the invitation of Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea and chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and president of the People’s Republic of China, will pay a state visit to the DPRK from June 20 to 21,” the official Korean Central News Agency announced in a brief dispatch using the North’s formal name.
Chinese state-run media also reported on the visit in what appeared to be a simultaneous announcement of the trip.
Coming just ahead of the June 28-29 G20 summit, the visit has fueled speculation that Trump, who is also scheduled to visit South Korea following the G20, could meet Kim at the truce village of Panmunjom at the North-South border.
Stalled denuclearization talks between the North and the U.S. are likely to be high on the agenda at talks between Xi and Kim. China, the North’s main benefactor, has urged the two sides to return to the negotiating table after a second Trump-Kim summit collapsed in late February without a deal due to major differences over the scope of North Korea’s denuclearization and potential sanctions relief by the U.S.
The state visit will be Xi’s first since he took office in November 2012. The last time Xi visited China’s neighbor and ally was as vice president in June 2008, when he met with the North’s former leader and father of the current leader, Kim Jong Il, as well as other top officials.