Rock blasts cause quake near China-North Korea border

Cheryl Sanders
June 18, 2019

Xi has met with Kim four times, each time in China, and his upcoming visit would mark the first such Chinese state trip since Xi's predecessor, Hu Jintao, met with Kim's late father, Kim Jong Il, in North Korea in 2005.

Chinese state-run media also reported on the visit in what appeared to be a simultaneous announcement of the trip.

In the past, nuclear tests by Pyongyang have caused tremors and mini quakes around the northern border China shares with North Korea. Apart from the trade tensions, they will also touch on other important bilateral and regional issues, with defusing tensions on North Korea high on their agenda.

Despite the series of meetings between Mr Xi and Mr Kim, relations between China and North Korea have also been tested in recent years, after Beijing joined the US-led effort to impose tough economic sanctions on Pyongyang, part of an global response to North Korea's nuclear and weapons programme.

The state visit will be Xi's first since he took office in November 2012.

China's President Xi Jinping will visit North Korea on Thursday for two days, making him the first Chinese leader to visit the reclusive country in 14 years. Kim, who had two summit meetings with Trump, is under vast pressure from the U.S. president to give up the nuclear programme.

Kim and US President Donald Trump held a summit last year in Singapore and one in Hanoi this year, but hopes among observers over imminent progress towards denuclearisation have since faded.

The meetings were timed in proximity to Kim's meetings with Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, highlighting Beijing's role as a key player in the nuclear standoff.

The visit also comes as negotiations between Trump and Kim have soured after a second summit in February broke up without a deal, failing to agree on what Pyongyang would be willing to give up in exchange for sanctions relief.

Improved ties with Pyongyang could boost Beijing's bargaining power with Washington, NPR's Rob Schmitz reports from Shanghai.

"From a North Korean perspective, it's time for Chairman Xi to visit", said John Delury, an expert on US-China relations and Korean Peninsula affairs at Yonsei University in Seoul. "China may want to show off its relationship with North Korea and demonstrate its importance to U.S".

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