China's President Xi Jinping. Picture: REUTERS
China's President Xi Jinping. Picture: REUTERS

Tokyo — Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for stable China-North Korea ties in a message to Kim Jong-un shortly before Donald Trump makes his first visit to Asia as US president.

Xi sent the note after Kim congratulated him last week on a second term as general secretary of the Communist Party of China’s central committee, the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported. The friendly tone contrasts with the recent war of words between Trump and Kim over North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs.

"I wish that under the new situation the Chinese side would make efforts with the DPRK side to promote the relations between the two parties and the two countries to sustainable soundness and stable development," Xi wrote, according to KCNA, referring to North Korea by its formal name. He added that the two countries should make a "positive contribution" to "defending regional peace and stability and common prosperity".

Kim last week extended his "sincere congratulations" to Xi, saying the Chinese people entered the "road of building socialism with Chinese characteristics" with Xi at the core.

‘Rocket man’

Although China has backed North Korea since the 1950s, relations between the countries have hit rough patches as Xi’s administration backed UN sanctions targeting coal, seafood and textiles. China has sought to defuse tensions between the US and North Korea while also resisting moves that could lead to the collapse of Kim’s regime.

Trump has stepped up pressure on Kim’s regime this year to prevent him from gaining the capability to strike the US with a nuclear weapon. He will embark Friday on a five-nation tour through Asia — his longest foreign trip yet — with stops in Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, Vietnam and the Philippines.

In recent months, Trump labelled Kim "rocket man" and told the UN that the US would "totally destroy" North Korea if it attacked. On September 22, Kim issued an unprecedented statement for a North Korean leader, using the first person repeatedly to attack Trump.

"Now that Trump has denied the existence of [my country] and insulted me and my country in front of the eyes of the world and made the most ferocious declaration of a war in history that he would destroy the DPRK, we will consider with seriousness exercising of a corresponding, highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history," Kim wrote in comments carried by state-run media.

Defector speaks

Speaking at a committee hearing in Washington on Wednesday, a high-ranking North Korean defector urged US officials to meet with Kim.

"Some people do not believe in soft power, but only in military options," Thae Yong-ho, a former deputy at the North Korean Embassy in London, told the House foreign affairs committee. "Before any military action is taken, I think it is necessary to meet Kim Jong-un at least once to understand his thinking and to try to convince him that he would be destroyed if he continues his current direction."

Separately, North Korea is working on an advanced version of a KN-20 intercontinental ballistic missile that could potentially reach the US, CNN reported, citing an unidentified American official.

Bloomberg

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