Chinese President Xi Jinping began his first visit to North Korea on Thursday, a trip marked by a need to reactivate dialogue on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and one set in a wider backdrop of the ongoing Beijing-Washington trade conflict.
Xi landed at Pyongyang Sunan International Airport to begin his two-day visit.
He was accompanied by an entourage which includes Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his predecessor Yang Jiechi, now head of the Office of Foreign Affairs of the Communist Party of China, among others.
Xi was taken to the Baekhwawon state guest house in Pyongyang, where he will stay for the duration of his trip.
In a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un the Chinese president gave a boost to the regime by saying that he will help Pyongyang to address its security concerns and try to promote a peace agreement on the peninsula.
The signing of a peace treaty to end the Korean War, which was stopped only with a ceasefire, is one of the main demands of Pyongyang.
Kim said that, although his efforts to reduce tensions have not received a response from the US, he will remain patient until a solution to the conflict is found, according to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.
It was Xi's first visit to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea – as North Korea is officially known – as president.
The visit was also the first time in 14 years that a Chinese leader has visited the neighboring country, while Kim has made four visits to China since last year, the last one in January.
The objective of the trip, according to experts, was to emphasize his influence on the Korean peninsula and coordinate with Kim regarding United States president Donald Trump's stance on the process of denuclearization on the Korean peninsula after the failed summit he held with the North Korean leader in February.
The meeting could shed light on the strategy that Pyongyang will want to raise with the United States over its denuclearization model, as well as the degree of support that Beijing is willing to give.
Xi and Trump are expected to meet at the G20 summit in a week's time and the trip may be a boost to the denuclearization talks that stalled after the failed summit in Vietnam.
In an editorial published on Wednesday in the main North Korean newspaper, the Chinese president said that his trip will contribute to "making progress" in this regard and described Pyongyang’s position as "reasonable" in terms of disarmament.
In the Vietnamese capital Hanoi, Pyongyang advocated a gradual denuclearization accompanied by the progressive lifting of sanctions, while Washington said it would not relax sanctions until the administration has eliminated its nuclear program, missiles and chemical and biological weapons.
But in this area the commercial and technological conflict between Washington and Beijing is also relevant as Beijing could take advantage of this visit to remind Trump of the economic influence it exerts over the impoverished North Korean regime and try to force a US concession.
Xi can not only choose to intensify its support for the option posed by Pyongyang in terms of denuclearization, he also depends on compliance with the strict sanctions for cross-border trade with North Korea, a key element in the "maximum pressure" strategy put forward by the White House.
Beijing has already alluded to the possibility of strengthening economic cooperation with its neighbor by including He Lifeng, head of the National Development and Reform Commission, the highest economic planning body in the delegation that has traveled to Pyongyang.
In the few details released by Chinese or South Korean were a massive welcome ceremony for Xi in Terminal 1 of Sunan, including a musical band and guard of honor.
No images of the reception that Kim attended accompanied by the first lady Ri Sol-ju have yet been published.
Images showed the streets adorned with Chinese flags and thousands of North Koreans celebrating the passage of the convoy carrying Xi and Kim to the center of the capital.
The People's Daily, one of China’s main newspapers, reported that both leaders were driven in a convertible car to greet people on their way to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, which houses the embalmed remains of two former North Korean leaders, Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, grandfather and father respectively of the current leader.
Xi is due to visit the Sino-Korean Friendship Tower, a monument located close to the Chinese embassy in Pyongyang.
It is also believed that he could attend a North Korean gymnastics show at Rungrado 1st of May Stadium, also known as the May Day Stadium, the world's largest sports venue. EFE-EPA