Asia Minute: China’s President Heading to North Korea

Jun 19, 2019

In this June 18, 2019 photo, people watch a TV news program reporting about Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to North Korea with a file footage of Chinese President Xi Jinping and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea. From nukes to huge food aid shipments to a shared skepticism about the United States, Xi and Kim will have a long list of topics to discuss when Xi heads north Thursday, June 20.
Credit AP Photo/Lee Jin-man

It appears that President Trump will be meeting China’s president Xi Jinping next week in Japan. But while that may be the center of attention at the Group of 20 meeting, it’s not the only high-level meeting for the Chinese president.

Chinese president Xi Jinping is heading for North Korea for two days of talks this Thursday and Friday. Chinese state media reported the plans on Monday, and the news was a bit of a surprise.

It will be the first time a Chinese leader has visited North Korea since Hu Jintao made the trip in 2005.

Xi has been to Pyongyang before 11 years ago when he was vice president, but nothing since he became president of China in 2012. The two men have met three times before, and it’s not clear what specifics may be on the agenda for this meeting.

South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reports Xi may bring an offer of 100,000 tons of food in a symbolic gift of humanitarian aid.

One point that regional media seem to agree on – the meeting in Pyongyang makes it less likely that Kim Jong Un will travel to South Korea before President Trump comes to Seoul after the G20 meeting in Japan.

South Korea’s president had encouraged such a meeting, and his office still left that possibility open, but in a written statement said in part:

“Instead of being too obsessed with having an inter-Korean summit, the most important thing is making an effective . . . decision on what will be the best way to achieve the goal of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and peace.”