Jan 11, 2019 08:33 Asia/Tehran

Chinese President Xi Jinping accepted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's invitation to visit Pyongyang after Kim's visit to Beijing this week, pointing to very close relations between the two neighbours.

Iran Press/Asia: Chinese President Xi Jinping accepted an offer to visit Pyongyang after meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Beijing this week, according to North Korean media reports.

“Xi accepted the offer [to visit Pyongyang] with pleasure and informed Kim of the plan,” the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Thursday, without providing further details.

At a press briefing, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang neither confirmed nor denied the KCNA report but said Beijing would “announce [Xi’s visit to Pyongyang] immediately if there is news”.

North Korea has made repeated invitations for Xi to visit, including in September – as relations between the two countries were warming – to attend its national day celebrations.

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said in October that Xi was expected to visit Pyongyang 'soon'.

China’s state news agency Xinhua made no mention of Kim’s invitation but said Beijing supported Pyongyang’s efforts towards denuclearisation and advocated concessions from both North Korea and the US so that an agreement could be reached at a planned second summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump.

Recently, Kim Jong Un warned that Pyongyang may pursue 'a new path' if the US continues to make 'one-sided demands' and impose sanctions.

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"We would have no choice but to defend our country's sovereignty and supreme interest, and find a new way to settle peace on our peninsula, if the US misinterprets our people's patience, and makes one-sided demands and continues down the path of sanctions and pressure on our republic," Kim Jong Un said during an annual New Year's address on January 1st.

On the other hand, Kim acknowledged China’s role in developments on the Korean peninsula, according to the Xinhua report.

“The Korean peninsula situation has been easing since last year, and China’s important role in this process is obvious to all", he was quoted as saying, “[North Korea will] make efforts for the second summit between DPRK and US leaders to achieve results that will be welcomed by the international community.”

That's while Pyongyang says Washington has betrayed the spirit of the June summit by making unilateral demands for denuclearization first without taking any reciprocal confidence-building measures, including for past North Korean goodwill steps.

Kim’s visit to Beijing coincided with the latest round of US-China officials trade talks, prompting suggestions he might be seeking to use his links with the world’s second-largest economy as a bargaining chip in his next meeting with Trump.

Since July, China and the US have been locked in a trade war and Beijing has in recent months been working hard to neutralize the impact of the conflict on its economy.

According to analysis, a visit by the Chinese leader would reassure Kim about China’s commitment to their relationship and represent the start of a new era in bilateral ties.  208/ 211 /103

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