Xinhua and KCNA confirm Kim Jong-un's first trip to Beijing

Kim arrived secretly two days ago aboard an armored train. The North Korean leader reiterates his commitment to the denuclearization of the peninsula. Experts: the stakes for Beijing are high. Everyone wants to be part of the game. Seoul applauds the visit: "It will help solve the nuclear problem in the North and bring peace to the Korean peninsula"


Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Kim Jong-un made his first institutional trip and summit, travelling to Beijing to meet the president of the historic Chinese ally. Confirmation of the visits came today from the official media of the two countries, Xinhua and KCNA, putting an end to the allegations that for two days shrouded a mysterious " high-level North Korean delegation" visit to China.

On March 25, Kim Jong-un arrived in Beijing secretly, on board an armored train, at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping and with a delegation that included his wife Ri Sol-ju, and - depending on the sources - lasted from yesterday afternoon until today. According to reports, the North Korean leader reiterated his "consistent position to commit himself to the denuclearization of the peninsula", respecting the will of the deceased founder of North Korea and his grandfather Kim Il-sung, and his father Kim Jong-il.

The visit shows the Chinese economic giant at the center of dialogue on the Korean peninsula, from which Beijing had been largely absent in recent months, while Seoul and Pyongyang re-established direct contact in the context of the PyeongChang Olympic Games, opening to a possible dialogue with the USA.

Beijing is the only ally of Pyongyang, and its main economic benefactor. The statements of Kim, reported by the official North Korean press agency, confirm it: "There is no doubt that my first visit abroad [would have been] to the Chinese capital". For Kim, that of "guarding and respecting relationships" between the two countries is a "solemn duty".

This relationship seemed to be in a crisis phase, after Beijing failed to block sanctions imposed by the UN on Pyongyang, imposed on the socialist regime because of its nuclear and missile program.

Now, the visit restores relations between the two countries to a positive light: China sees its role as a mediator in the Korean question renewed, a useful bargaining chip in direct dialogue with the other economic giant in Washington, with which Beijing is set on a collision course. For its part, North Korea has secured diplomatic support in view of the summits with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and its US counterpart, Donald Trump, scheduled for April and May.

Speaking to the South China Morning Post, Zhou Chenming, an expert on military matters in Beijing, said the visit itself was proof that Pyongyang maintained the "traditional friendship" with the old ally, to the detriment of the assumptions of many analysts, who believed China had been left with no tools to leverage on neighboring North Korea. Another anonymous Chinese expert states that Beijing has every interest in protecting the North Korean regime, as its collapse would "compromise" the security of its borders in the event of US military intervention.

Benoit Hardy-Chartrand, of the University of Montreal, commented to the SCMP that "the stakes are just way too high for Beijing. Everyone wants to be a part of that game, now that Trump and Moon are going to meet Kim … Nobody wants to be left on the sidelines.”

Recently, Japan is also trying to enter the game with the opening of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to a Japanese-North Korean summit.

For its part, Seoul has "welcomed" the improvement of relations between China and North Korea. Baik Taehyun, spokesman for the Unification Ministry, said that "this will help solve the nuclear problem in the North and bring peace to the Korean peninsula" - a position supported today by the South Korean Foreign Ministry.

For Washington, Kim's visit to Beijing is proof of the success of the "maximum pressure" policy desired by the US.

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