Beijing: President Xi Jinping would make his maiden visit to Pyongyang this week - the first by a Chinese leader in 14 years - in a big boost to the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who is under heavy pressure from the US to give up nuclear weapons programme.
Xi will visit Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) - the official name for North Korea - from June 20 to 21, at the invitation of Kim, the spokesperson for the International Department of the ruling Communist Party of China, Hu Zhaoming, announced here.
His visit coincides with the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries.
Xi's visit, the first by a Chinese leader in 14 years to the internationally isolated country reeling under UN sanctions for pursing nuclear weapons programme, comes ahead of his proposed meeting with US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of G-20 summit scheduled to be held on June 28-29 in Tokyo.
The last state visit made by a Chinese president to North Korea was in 2005 by then Chinese president Hu Jintao at the invitation of the former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
Kim, who had two summit meetings with Trump, is under immense pressure from the US president to give up the nuclear programme. Their summit at Hanoi, Vietnam in February failed and Trump staved off pressure to agree to lift crippling UN sanctions.
Kim, who shares close ties with President Xi, has travelled to China ahead of his proposed meetings with Trump, prompting the US president Tump to allege that the Chinese President was negatively influencing the North Korean leader from clinching a deal to give up the nuclear programme.
The North Korean leader has visited China four times in recent years.
Commenting on Xi's visit, Chinese strategic experts said that making such a significant visit before the G20 summit shows that China is trying to further highlight its unique influence to push forward the peace process on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue.
Zheng Jiyong, director of the Centre for Korean studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, told the Global Times Monday that Xi's visit will further improve the traditional friendship between the two countries and will also promote the peaceful solution of the Korean nuclear issue as North Korea and the US continue to face a deadlock following their failed summit in Hanoi.
"Due to sanctions based on UN Security Council resolutions and unilateral sanctions launched by the US and Japan, the North Korean economy and people's living conditions have been seriously damaged. North Korea desperately needs assistance from its most reliable neighbour to boost economic cooperation without violating UN resolutions," Zheng noted.
North Korea is also interested in the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and discussing concrete plans to include North Korea in the BRI and encouraging Pyongyang to insist on denuclearisation and focus on economic development could also be a key topic at the upcoming visit, Zheng said.
Chinese observers believe that by making such a significant diplomatic move ahead of the G20 meet China is trying to further highlight its unique influence in mediating between the US and North Korea, the Global Times report said.
North Korea-US ties are in a deadlock following the Hanoi summit, and the Chinese leader will likely meet the leaders of the two countries before the end of June, so China is creating an important chance for the key parties of the nuclear issue to break their deadlock, Zheng said.
"There is no country like China with a unique and important influence over the peninsula issue, and this diplomatic move could also stabilize China-US relations, since the US also needs China's cooperation to push the peninsula's peace process," Zheng noted.