Xi supports North Korea’s direction on issues ahead of visit

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Xi supports North Korea's direction on issues ahead of visit
FILE - In this June 19, 2018, file photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, poses with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for a photo during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Chinese state media say President Xi Jinping will make a state visit to North Korea this week. State broadcaster CCTV said in its evening news program on Monday that Xi will meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a visit Thursday and Friday. (Ju Peng/Xinhua via AP, File)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping said North Korea is taking the “right direction” by politically resolving issues on the Korean Peninsula in a rare op-ed published by a North Korean state newspaper Wednesday, a day before Xi visits Pyongyang to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Xi didn’t mention the stalled nuclear weapons talks between Washington and Pyongyang in the Rodong Sinmun article. But experts say Xi during his summit with Kim will likely endorse North Korean calls for an incremental disarmament process in which every action Pyongyang takes it met with U.S. concessions on sanctions and security issues.

Xi said his visit on Thursday and Friday would “strengthen strategic communication and exchange” between the traditional allies.

Nuclear negotiations between the United States and North Korea have been on a standstill since February when a summit between Kim and President Donald Trump collapsed over what the Americans described as excessive North Korean demands for sanctions relief in exchange for only a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities.

Kim has said he would seek a “new way” if the United States persists with sanctions and pressure against North Korea. The Trump administration has said sanctions will remain in place until the North commits to fully and verifiably relinquishing its nuclear and missile program upfront.

Kim met Xi four times in China last year during a diplomatic outreach that also included meetings with Trump, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Russian President Vladimir Putin.