- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Beijing ended the guessing game on whether North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had made a secretive visit to the Asian nation, confirming early Wednesday that he was part of the delegation from Pyongyang that arrived at the Chinese capital.

Images of Mr. Kim and his wife, Ri Sol-ju, meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife, Peng Liyuan, at the Great Hall in Beijing, were released on China’s official news outlets shortly after the North Korean delegation arrived back in Pyongyang.

Mr. Kim and the North Korean delegation arrived in Beijing on Sunday for a three-day summit, the state-run People’s Daily reported.

The visit was at Mr. Xi’s request and marked the first time Mr. Kim had left North Korean territory on any kind of diplomatic visit since assuming power in December 2011. Mr. Kim’s delegation also met with Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

“Both Comrade Chairman and I have personally experienced and witnessed the development of China-DPRK relationship,” Mr. Xi said in a statement.

“This is a strategic choice and the only right choice both sides have made based on history and reality, the international and regional structure and the general situation of China-DPRK ties,” the Chinese leader said.

Pyongyang is preparing for a fresh round of bilateral talks with Seoul, building on the good will generated during the Winter Olympics in South Korea. The White House also is preparing for a summit between President Trump and Mr. Kim.

The White House said Tuesday night that it views the development as “further evidence that our campaign of maximum pressure is creating the appropriate atmosphere for dialogue with North Korea.”

The Chinese government contacted the White House on Tuesday to brief the U.S. on Mr. Kim’s visit to Beijing, said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

“The briefing included a personal message from President Xi to President Trump,” she said. “The United States remains in close contact with our allies South Korea and Japan.”

During the visit, Mr. Kim also expressed support for proposed talks with the U.S.

“The issue of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula can be resolved, if South Korea and the United States respond to our efforts with good will, create an atmosphere of peace and stability, while taking progressive and synchronous measures for the realization of peace,” Mr. Kim said during the joint appearance with Mr. Xi.

China has long been Pyongyang’s major ally — Mao Tse-tung’s intervention in the Korean war saved the North’s communist regime from being overrun by the U.S. Despite all the changes in China’s political and economic system over the decades, it has remained North Korea’s major trading partner and the only country thought to have any real influence.

According to Mr. Xi, the bilateral relationship between Beijing and Pyongyang “should not and will not change because of any single event at a particular time.”

Mr. Kim said the three-day visit would be the first of many personal engagements with Mr. Xi. He vowed to “keep close contacts … so as to promote to a new level the guidance of high-level meetings to the relations between the two parties and countries,” Xinhua reported.

• Dave Boyer contributed to this report.

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