China's Xi Jinping arrives in North Korea on historic visit

China's Xi Jinping arrives in North Korea on historic visitTens of thousands of North Koreans lines the streets of central Pyongyang on Thursday and cheered as Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, arrived for a two-day state visit with Kim Jong-un to reinforce their uneasy alliance in the face of two leaders’ increasing tension with the United States. A smiling Kim greeted the crowds as he drove past Chinese flags with Mr Xi in an open-top Mercedes on their way to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, a complex that serves as the mausoleum for North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung. Mr Xi was afforded the honour of being the first foreign leader to have “received a tribute” at the palace, “which fully reflects the enthusiasm and respect of the host,” reported the NK News website, citing Chinese state media. Images of the pomp and grand ceremony would likely have bolstered Mr Xi, who has been embarrassed by mass pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in recent weeks, and who must face Donald Trump, the US president, at the G20 summit in Japan next week in the midst of a bitter trade dispute. Mr Xi is first Chinese president to visit North Korea in 14 years, and the visit gives Kim a much-needed boost as he strives to restore his image as an international statesman after his failure to secure a deal to relieve punishing international sanctions during a summit with Mr Trump in Hanoi in February. Xi and Kim met in the North's capital on Thursday, their fifth meeting in 15 months Credit: CCTV via AP In meeting with Mr Xi, Kim wants to show Mr Trump that he has China’s support on nuclear negotiations even as talks have come to a halt with Washington and the next US presidential election looms. Analysts say the trip is equally a chance for China to showcase its influence in the region.  “Comrade Xi Jinping is visiting... in the face of crucial and grave tasks due to complex international relations, which clearly shows the Chinese party and the government place high significance on the friendship,” the North’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper said on Thursday. The North Korean media revealed little about the substance of their discussions, although it is expected that Pyongyang will seek Beijing’s help in securing sanctions relief and may discuss future investment through China’s global development “Belt and Road” initiative. China is historically North Korea’s largest trading partner. Mr Xi, whose entourage includes the head of China’s state economic planner, may offer fresh support measures for its floundering, sanctions-bound economy. Inside North Korea: Everyday life in the secretive state, in pictures However, President Xi’s visit, accompanied by Peng Liyuan, will remain largely symbolic and is unlikely to produce any major announcements or agreements. After he arrived at the airport, the two leaders reviewed a military guard procession and a 21-gun salute. The Chinese president was due to attend a welcoming banquet on Thursday evening and to be entertained by a mass gymnastic performance. He was also expected during his visit to pay tribute at the Friendship Tower, which commemorates Chinese troops who fought together with North Koreans during the 1950-53 Korean War. The conflict ended in a truce, not a treaty, leaving the North technically still at war with South Korea. The timing of Xi’s visit to North Korea was no accident, said Li Zhonglin, a North Korea expert at China’s Yanbian University, told Reuters. China could be hoping to play a role in coaxing the North and the United States to resume denuclearisation talks after this year’s failed Kim-Trump summit in Hanoi, he added.

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