What Happened: Chinese President Xi Jinping will pay an official visit June 20-21 to North Korea to mark the 70th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations between North Korea and China, Chinese and North Korean state-run media reported June 17. South Korea's presidential office said that the summit could facilitate the process of reopening talks on denuclearization.
Why It Matters: The three meetings between Xi and North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un in 2018 preceded North Korean outreach to either the United States or South Korea, with Kim relaying his plans to China during each meeting. Currently strained relations between Washington and Beijing, however, mean the upcoming meeting may be different. This time, it might reflect a bid to shore up Chinese influence in North Korea and support the latter.
Background/Context: Xi's visit to North Korea, the first visit to the country by a Chinese leader in 14 years, has been discussed since 2018 but postponed repeatedly due to fears of the U.S. response it might prompt amid the ongoing U.S.-China trade war. With the prospect of a trade deal dwindling and each side hardening its position, China has less incentive to avoid bolstering its support for North Korea — potentially giving China leverage during Xi's upcoming meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the June 28-29 meeting of G-20 heads of state in Japan. Japan Times on June 17 cited reports that Trump will meet with Kim in South Korea while Trump is in the region for the G-20.