BEIJING (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping departed Thursday morning for a state visit to North Korea, where he’s expected to talk with leader Kim Jong Un about his nuclear program while negotiations have stalled with Washington.
The Xinhua news agency reported Xi was visiting North Korea at Kim’s invitation and was accompanied by his wife, Peng Liyuan, and several Communist Party officials. He would be the first Chinese president in 14 years to visit North Korea.
Chinese and North Korea media have said Xi would stay in Pyongyang for two days. His meeting with Kim would their fifth summit since Kim entered nuclear diplomacy with the United States and South Korea early last year.
Their upcoming summit comes as both Xi and Kim are locked in separate disputes with the United States — Xi over trade and Kim over his nuclear weapons.
Experts say Xi will likely endorse North Korea’s calls for an incremental disarmament process in which every action Pyongyang takes it met with U.S. concessions on sanctions and security issues.
In an essay published in both countries’ official media before his trip, Xi praised North Korea for moving in the “right direction” by politically resolving issues on the peninsula. He did not mention Kim’s nuclear diplomacy with the U.S. in the article, much of which focused on lauding the neighbors’ seven-decade relationship. Xi said his visit will “strengthen strategic communication and exchange” between the traditional, though sometimes strained, allies.
The nations fought together in the 1950-53 Korean War against the United States, South Korea and their allies, but there has been friction in recent years, especially over the North’s relentless push for nuclear bombs.