Chinese President Xi Jinping will arrive in North Korea on Thursday for a two-day state visit, his first official trip to the country since he came to power in 2012. Xi is making the trip “at the invitation” of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Xinhua reported Monday.
Relations between the two countries had been in a deep chill under the North Korean leader until recently, but an unexpected visit by Kim to China in March 2018 signaled the beginning of a new era of Beijing-Pyongyang relations.
In the preceding years, Kim had purged several key officials with close ties to Beijing, including his uncle Jang Song Thaek. He had also angered China through his provocative missile and nuclear testing, which went against Beijing’s goal of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.
However since that visit early last year, Xi and Kim have met four times, with China even lending the young North Korean leader a plane to attend a June 2018 summit with Trump in Singapore.
This week’s state visit will make Xi the first Chinese leader to visit North Korea since his predecessor, Hu Jintao visited in 2005. China is North Korea’s number one trading and economic partner, and Pyongyang’s only major military ally.