Chinese President Xi Jinping told North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Thursday that his country supported a second summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump, according China's Xinhua news agency.
Kim concluded a four-day trip to China by meeting with Xi in what is believed to be an effort to coordinate with Beijing ahead of a possible second summit with Trump. The US president said Sunday that the US and North Korea (or DPRK) were negotiating the location of their next summit.
During Thursday's meeting, , Xinhua reported, Kim told Xi that he was committed to setting up a second summit with Trump and that North Korea would try to produce a result that the international community would welcome. Kim also said he hoped relevant sides would take North Korea's "reasonable concerns" seriously.
Kim and Trump pledged to work towards denuclearization in a landmark summit in Singapore last June, with Kim asking for sanctions relief in return. However, the agreement lacked specifics and negotiations have not progressed since.
According to Xinhua, Kim said on Thursday that North Korea "will continue sticking to the stance of denuclearization and resolving the Korean Peninsula issue through dialogue and consultation, and make efforts for the second summit between (North Korean) and US leaders to achieve results that will be welcomed by the international community."
However, North Korea's KCNA news agency said Kim "raised concern about the impasse created in the process of improving US-DPRK ties and in denuclearization talks."
Last week, Kim expressed his frustrations in an annual New Year's address over the lack of progress in negotiations since the Singapore summit. He said that if things did not improve — more specifically if sanctions relief and security guarantees didn't materialize — Pyongyang might have to find "a new way" forward.
North Korea has sought relief on multiple sets of sanctions imposed over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. The US, however, wants the sanctions to stay in place until the nuclear disarmament of the Korean peninsula is complete.
China also wants the sanctions on North Korea to be relaxed. According to Xinhua, Xi said China "hopes that the DPRK and the United States will meet each other halfway." The Chinese president "spoke very highly of the positive measures taken by the DPRK side," Xinhua said.
After the meeting between Xi and Kim, South Korean President Moon Jae-in suggested Thursday that he will push for sanction exemptions in order to kickstart dormant economic cooperation projects between North and South Korea.
"We welcome North Korea's intention to resume their operation without conditions or compensation," Moon said. "My administration will cooperate with the international community, including the United States, to resolve the remaining issues such as international sanctions as soon as possible."
The North and South have undertaken several cooperation projects in recent months, including at the North's scenic Diamond Mountain resort and the Kaesong industrial complex just north of the heavily militarized border. The two countries also broke ground on a future railway project in December, though actual construction will not begin until progress is made on denuclearization.
dv/rc (AFP, AP, Reuters)