(ATTN: RECASTS first 3 paras)
By Koh Byung-joon
SEOUL, Jan. 10 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un pledged efforts to produce worthy results from a second summit he's expected to hold with U.S. President Donald Trump when he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier this week, Chinese state media said Thursday.
Xi expressed support for Kim and Trump "holding summits and achieving results" during talks with Kim in Beijing on Tuesday, the Xinhua news agency said. The Chinese leader also called for Washington and Pyongyang to "meet each other halfway," it said.
In Seoul, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said that Kim's trip to China shows a second U.S.-North Korea summit "is drawing near." Moon also called on the North to take bolder denuclearization measures and on the U.S. to take reciprocal steps.
"The DPRK will continue sticking to the stance of denuclearization and resolving the Korean Peninsula issue through dialogue and consultation, and make efforts for the second summit between DPRK and U.S. leaders to achieve results that will be welcomed by the international community," Xinhua quoted Kim as saying during talks with Xi.
DPRK is the abbreviation of the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Xi strongly supported Kim's meeting with Trump and hoped the two will find common ground, adding that China is ready to play a "positive" and "constructive" role in the process.
"China hopes that the DPRK and the United States will meet each other halfway," he was quoted as saying. "China stands ready to work with the DPRK and relevant parties to play a positive and constructive role in maintaining peace and stability and realizing denuclearization on the peninsula."
Xinhua also said that Kim and Xi agreed to make efforts for continuous "new development," a "political settlement process of the Korean Peninsula" and "more benefits" for the people of the two countries and that they would contribute to peace and stability, prosperity and development of the region and beyond.
North Korea's state media reported on the summit about a hour later.
According to the Korean Central News Agency, leader Kim said that he will stick to his denuclearization commitments and principles of faithfully carrying out the June summit with the U.S, while sharing with Xi the challenges facing the denuclearization process.
Xi was quoted as supporting what he called North Korea's "reasonable" demands in denuclearization talks, apparently referring to Pyongyang's push to have sanctions on its regime eased or lifted.
In particular, the two leaders had an in-depth discussion on the issue of "joint research" into the denuclearization process and the situation on the Korean Peninsula.
The KCNA noted they also agreed to expand their high-level exchanges in the political, economic, military and cultural sectors as they mark the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties. Xi accepted Kim's invitation to visit North Korea "at a convenient date," it added.
Kim's trip to China, which was made at the invitation of Beijing, came amid speculation that a second summit between the North's leader and U.S. President Donald Trump is imminent.
Pyongyang and Washington have been locked in a stalemate over how to carry out the agreements they reached in their first-ever summit in June, at which Kim promised to work toward complete denuclearization in exchange for security guarantees from the U.S.
Progress has been slow ever since as the North wants sanctions relief, while the U.S. remains firm that sanctions will remain in place until the North completely gives up its nuclear weapons program.
In his New Year's Day speech, Kim warned that he could go a new way if the United States clings to pressure and sanctions on the North's regime. But he kept the door open for talks with the U.S., saying he is willing to meet Trump at any time.
Trump earlier said that the U.S. and North Korea are in talks over where to hold their second summit and a decision on the venue will be announced in the "not-too-distant future."
Experts think Kim's China trip was intended to discuss strategies with his closest ally ahead of a possible summit with Trump, adding that it also appears aimed at strengthening the North's negotiating leverage by demonstrating its strong ties with Beijing.
On the Chinese side, the Kim-Xi meeting could demonstrate to the world its strong ties with and powerful influence over North Korea at a time when it is locked in a trade row with the U.S., they added.
Xi hosted a dinner reception for Kim on Tuesday night, the 35th birthday of the North Korean leader. Kim toured an industrial site in Beijing on Wednesday before heading back home late in the day.
Experts say that Kim's trip to China could be followed by his visit to Seoul or a meeting with U.S. President Trump in the next few months.
During his summit meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in September, Kim agreed to travel to Seoul "at an early date" -- the first time a North Korean leader would have done so.
In a personal letter to Moon last month, he expressed disappointment for not making a trip to Seoul by the year's end and hoped to fulfill his promise soon.
President Moon said in his New Year speech, broadcast live on Monday, that he thinks the North Korean leader's latest trip to China signals that a second Trump-Kim summit could take place in the near future and that it could also positively contribute to successful outcome of such a meeting.
He added that Kim's journey to Seoul, if realized, would have significance in inter-Korean relations in and of itself given that it would be the first of its kind. He voiced confidence that it would take place no matter what since the North's leader himself promised it would happen.
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