Chinese president Xi Jinping has met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in a northern Chinese port city, officials said.
The meeting, held over Monday and Tuesday in Dalian, is the second between the two men in recent weeks following Mr Kim’s visit to Beijing in March, his first since taking power six years ago.
China is North Korea’s only major ally, although trade between them has plummeted in recent months as Beijing enforces United Nations economic sanctions in response to the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests.
I will be speaking to my friend, President Xi of China, this morning at 8:30. The primary topics will be Trade, where good things will happen, and North Korea, where relationships and trust are building.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 8, 2018
Mr Xi hosted a welcome banquet for Mr Kim and the two leaders strolled along the coastline at a government guesthouse and had lunch together on Tuesday, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
“In a cordial and friendly atmosphere, the top leaders of the two parties and the two countries had an all-round and in-depth exchange of views on China-DPRK relations and major issues of common concern,” Xinhua said.
Chinese state media have quoted Mr Kim telling Mr Xi that his country remains committed to denuclearisation and has no need to possess nuclear weapons if a “relevant party” drops its “hostile policy and security threats” against it, in a clear reference to the United States.
“I hope to build mutual trust with the US through dialogue,” Mr Kim was quoted as saying. He said a political resolution of tensions on the Korean Peninsula and denuclearisation should proceed in stages, with all sides moving in concert.
US president Donald Trump later tweeted to say he will speak with Mr Xi.
He said the two will discuss trade, an area where he says “good things will happen”. Mr Trump added they will also discuss North Korea, where he said “relationships and trust are building”.
The meeting between the Chinese and North Korean leaders comes as Mr Kim prepares to hold a historic summit with the US president.
China has been eager to assert its importance in the process of lowering tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
On May 22, Mr Trump will meet South Korean president Moon Jae-in at the White House.
It is not known how long the Xi-Kim meeting had been planned or why Dalian was chosen. Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post newspaper cited two unidentified sources as saying that Mr Xi had flown to Dalian on the coast east of Beijing to preside over the official launch of sea trials for China’s first entirely self-built aircraft carrier.
Chinese internet users posting on social media described heavy security in the city and extensive flight delays on Monday. Others said they spotted a set of Red Flag limousines used by state leaders.
As with Mr Kim’s March visit to Beijing, his presence in Dalian was not officially confirmed until he had left China. Reports said his jet flew out of Dalian airport on Tuesday afternoon.