Xi supports North Korea's direction on issues ahead of visit

It’s hardly the most obvious location for a hiking trip

It’s hardly the most obvious location for a hiking trip

South Korea has provided its largest food and aid donation since 2008 to United Nations aid programs in North Korea, officials said on Wednesday, amid warnings that millions of dollars more is needed to make up for food shortages.

Xi and Kim have met four times previously.

The China-North Korea relationship is often said to have been forged in blood during the Korean War.

Mr Xi's visit comes a week before the G20 summit in Japan, where he is set to meet US President Donald Trump.

"Both leaders will likely seek to put pressure on Washington to conduct nuclear diplomacy with North Korea largely on North Korea's terms - through a phased, step-by-step approach to denuclearization and including partial sanctions relief", said Mintaro Oba, a former US diplomat who worked on Korean Peninsula issues.

Why is the visit happening now?

Xi made the pledge in an op-ed in the Rodong Sinmun, North Korea's official newspaper to emphasize the friendly and close bilateral relations between the two countries, according to South Korea's Yonhap News Agency.

It is being seen as a boost for Mr Kim, who has been struggling to maintain momentum after a flurry of diplomatic activity over the past year.

Analysts say that Xi's journey is intended as a signal to Trump of his influence and backing for Kim. China is believed to have shipped about 1 million tons of corn to North Korea a year ago, he said.

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The Xi-Kim summit may also be another sign that an anti-U.S. united front is emerging among China, Russia and North Korea - old Cold War-era allies. But ties have been strained over the past decade, with Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions viewed critically by Beijing. The visit is expected to last two days.

"The North Koreans want to keep their friends close even if there isn't a lot of trust and a lot of goodwill between them", says Ms Town. Or he might come out against the strengthening of sanctions and military pressure on North Korea.

In March, Russia donated more than 2,000 tonnes of wheat to the WFP's North Korea program.

"China has proved to be the main destination for most of North Korea's exports, including minerals, fish, textiles, and also workers", North Korea analyst Peter Ward told the BBC. The move came after the US and its allies accused North Korea of using illicit ship-to-ship transfers to bring in more oil, Bloomberg News reported, citing a USA letter to the panel. Under current sanctions, a lot of this trade has come to a halt.

China provides a lifeline to North Korea's paltry economy that is squeezed by worldwide sanction to punish it for nuclear and missile tests that defied United Nation resolutions.

Kim Hyun-wook, a professor at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy, told Reuters that Chinese economic support - possibly even China creating a "hole" in sanctions - would mean Mr Kim "doesn't have to negotiate with the USA from a position of weakness".

"One positive thing for the nuclear negotiations is that Xi will likely urge Kim to show a stronger commitment to dialogue and refrain from provocations like weapons tests", said Wi Sung-lac, a former South Korean nuclear negotiator.

When Xi went to North Korea in 2008 as a vice president, China reportedly provided more than 300,000 tons of food to North Korea, according to Park Byung Kwang, director of the center for Northeast Asia at the Seoul-based Institute for National Security Strategy, a think tank affiliated with South Korea's main spy agency.

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