Beijing, Mar 28 (PTI) Bracing for an unprecedented meeting with US President Donald Trump, North Korea’s reclusive dictator Kim Jong-un made a secret trip to Beijing to seek Chinese President Xi Jinping’s backing while pledging support for denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

After day-long silence yesterday, China today acknowledged Kim’s visit apparently after his bullet proof green and yellow train, by which he travelled, left China’s borders and entered North Korea.

Kim paid a four-day “unofficial visit” to Beijing from Sunday to Wednesday – his first journey abroad since taking power in 2011 and his first reported meeting with a foreign head of state — at the invitation of Xi, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

During his visit, which was kept under wraps, Kim held talks with Xi at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan held a welcoming banquet for Kim and his wife Ri Sol Ju and watched an art performance together, the report said.

Premier Li Keqiang, Vice President Wang Qishan and other top leaders of the ruling Chinese Communist Party of China (CPC) attended related activities, respectively, it said.

But the key takeaways from the young mercurial dictator’s first overseas visit to China, North Korea’s decades old closest ally, was apparently to meet Xi, with whom he shared fractious relationship, before his proposed meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in next month and Trump in May.

China, a key broker pushing for six-party talks between US, North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan and Russia, was on tenterhooks as Kim began directly responding to the overtures of South Korea and Trump himself in an apparent snub to Beijing for tightening the UN sanctions by halting the supplies of oil, coal and other essentials under pressure from Trump.

Kim raised eyebrows in China when he refused to meet Xi’s special envoy Song Tao few months ago.

But with Xi himself emerging more powerful this month after the removal of the two-term presidential limit paving the way for his life long rule, Kim made the surprise visit to Beijing to address China’s concern and restoring primacy of Beijing’s as an important player in North Korean peace process.

During his trip, Kim heaped praise on Xi saying the Chinese leader enjoyed the support of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) and the people of the whole country.

Xinhua quoted Kim as saying that it is his obligation to come to congratulate Xi in person, in line with the North Korea-China friendly tradition.

At present, the Korean Peninsula situation is developing rapidly and many important changes have taken place, Kim said, adding that he felt he should come in time to inform Xi in person the situation out of comradeship and moral responsibility.

Kim said his country is determined to transform the inter-Korean ties into a relationship of reconciliation and cooperation and hold summit between the heads of the two sides.

The DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) is willing to have dialogue with the US and hold a summit of the two countries, he said.

“The issue of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula can be resolved, if south Korea and the US respond to our efforts with goodwill, create an atmosphere of peace and stability while taking progressive and synchronous measures for the realization of peace,” Kim told Xi.

The DPRK hopes to enhance strategic communication with China during the process, jointly safeguard the trend of consultation and dialogue as well as peace and stability on the peninsula, he said.

Xi said that positive changes had taken place on the Korean Peninsula since this year, and China appreciates the important efforts made by the DPRK.

On the Korean Peninsula issue, Xi said that China sticks to the goal of denuclearisation of the peninsula, safeguarding peace and stability on the peninsula and solving problems through dialogue and consultation.

Kim said that as the situation of the Korean Peninsula is undergoing unprecedented changes, he paid a swift visit to China, out of good wishes for promoting peace and stability on the peninsula, and carrying on and developing the DPRK-China friendship.

He said the fact that he chose China as the destination of his first overseas visit showed his will to carry forward the tradition of DPRK-China friendship, and how he valued the friendship between the two countries.

“I have had successful talks with General Secretary Xi Jinping on developing relations between the two parties and the two countries, our respective domestic situation, maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, and other issues,” he said.

Commenting on Kim’s visit, Pang Zhongying, a senior fellow at the Ocean University of China in Qingdao, said Kim was securing China’s support ahead of his meeting with Trump.

“By denuclearisation, Kim actually means the whole Korean peninsula should be denuclearised and that the nuclear weapons deployed by the US in South Korea should be withdrawn,” Pang told Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.

Paul Haenle, director of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre in China, agreed that Kim was looking for support from Beijing ahead of his meetings with South Korea’s president and Trump.

“Just as Kim may have felt he had secured some leverage against Xi having independently secured summits with Trump and Moon, he’ll now feel more confident knowing where things stand with Beijing heading into those same meetings,” he said.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.