Beijing, Mar 28: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met Xi Jinping and assured him denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, China said on Wednesday. During the meet, Xi Jinping also accepted Kim’s invitation to visit North Korea. After two days of speculation, China confirmed that Kim had visited Beijing and met the Chinese president during an official visit.

China said Kim Jong Un gave a pledge to President Xi Jinping to denuclearize the Korean peninsula and in return, Beijing would uphold its friendship with its isolated neighbour, reported Xinhua news agency. The China visit was Kim’s first known journey abroad since he assumed power in 2011.

China has traditionally been the closest ally of secretive North Korea. However, the ties were hit due to North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and China’s backing of tough UN sanctions. Kim’s China visit came ahead of his planned summit with US President Donald Trump.

Observers say that Kim’s visit was due as it is diplomatically inconceivable for him to meet Trump without ever meeting Xi, who is now set to become a leader for life after the recent constitutional amendments removing the two-term limits for the Chinese president.

Though North Korea remained a long-standing ally of China, relations between the two countries have been strained after Beijing beefed-up UN sanctions by blocking essential supplies like oil and coal following pressure from Trump. Observers say the severity of sanctions made Kim tone down his rhetoric on acquiring nuclear weapons and consider the option for talks with the US.

Earlier this month, Kim invited US President Donald Trump for talks by sending a letter through a South Korean delegation. The US President has agreed to meet the North Korean leader by May this year. Trump has expressed an openness to dialogue with North Korea, but the US has clearly said North Korea must first take concrete steps toward denuclearization.

“Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze. Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time. Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached. Meeting being planned!” Trump had tweeted. (With PTI inputs)