Chinese President Xi Jinping offered North Korean leader Kim Jong Un firm backing in deadlocked nuclear talks with the United States, insisting the two sides should meet "halfway", state media said yesterday.
Kim visited Beijing by train this week for two days of discussions that reasserted China's role in the process, and were seen as a strategy session ahead of a second summit between the North Korean leader and US President Donald Trump.
At their first meeting in Singapore in June, Kim and Trump signed a vaguely worded document with Kim pledging to work towards the "denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula".
But progress has since stalled with Pyongyang and Washington -- which stations 28,500 troops in South Korea -- disagreeing over what that means.
North Korea wants relief from the multiple sets of sanctions imposed on it over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes, while the US wants the measures to remain in place until Pyongyang gives up its arms -- something it has made no public promise to do.
China also wants the sanctions relaxed and Xi said he "hopes that the DPRK and the United States will meet each other halfway" according to China's state news agency Xinhua, using the initials of the North's official name.
Xi "spoke highly of the positive measures taken by the DPRK side", it added.
North Korea has carried out six nuclear blasts and launched missiles capable of reaching the whole of the United States, but has performed no such tests for more than a year, and blew up the entrances to a nuclear testing ground it said it no longer needed, reported AFP.
Kim noted the "difficulties and concern" in talks with the US, according to Pyongyang's official KCNA news agency, which said the Chinese leader had issued a ringing endorsement of the North's position.
Meanwhile, China and South Korea called for concessions from the United States as well as North Korea, reported Reuters.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said yesterday that he would cooperate with the international community to at least partially ease sanctions to allow for some inter-Korean business and tourism ventures, while later noting that Pyongyang needed to take "bold steps" towards denuclearisation to win concessions from Washington.