North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited China this past week ahead of summit talks planned with South Korea and the U.S. in an apparent effort to restore relations with China. The two countries’ partnership has emerged as a new variable in Korean Peninsula affairs.
Kim’s visit to China was confirmed by both sides after the trip was over on Wednesday.
The North's official Korean Central News Agency said that Kim made an unofficial visit to China from Sunday to Wednesday at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Kim and Xi held summit talks on Monday at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
According to the Chinese foreign ministry, Kim underlined Pyongyang's commitment to denuclearization. He reportedly said that it is the North's consistent stance that it stands committed to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in accordance with the will of former North Korean leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il.
Kim also said the denuclearization issue can be resolved if South Korea and the U.S. take step-by-step, simultaneous measures and foster an atmosphere of peace and stability.
Kim also told President Xi that the two nations should enhance bilateral solidarity and cooperation by holding more meetings between their officials and strengthening strategic communication.
In response, the Chinese leader expressed support for North Korean efforts regarding positive changes witnessed in the region this year.
South Korea has welcomed Kim's visit to China and expressed hopes on denuclearization and establishing peace.
The White House also expressed cautious optimism. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the U.S. believes "things are moving in the right direction."
She added that Kim's meeting with Xi was a good indication the maximum pressure campaign against Pyongyang has been working.
South Korean political parties were split in their reactions.
The ruling Democratic Party said Kim’s trip will positively affect the dynamics on the peninsula while the main opposition Liberty Korea Party downplayed Pyongyang’s move as a typical nuclear diplomacy tactic.
Pundits believe Kim's trip to China satisfied the strategic interest of both sides.
China needed to take a more active part in the dialogue mood created among the two Koreas and the U.S. while North Korea needed a trustworthy ally ahead of summit talks with Seoul and Washington.
It is a positive development that Kim Jong-un has expressed commitment to denuclearization. However his call for “step-by-step, simultaneous measures” by Seoul and Washington is an element of uncertainty.
North Korea may be adhering to its past strategy of making modest concessions in return for compensation. But the South and the U.S. are negative about a step-by-step, progressive approach in reaching a deal with the North.