In this May 7, 2018, photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, meets Chinese President Xi Jinping in Dalian, China. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: "KCNA" which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

BEIJING (AP) - The surprise China-North Korea summit this week is intended to ensure Beijing’s voice is heard when the North’s Kim Jong Un holds a historic meeting with President Donald Trump[1].

Chinese President Xi Jinping wants to protect his country’s strategic interests on the Korean Peninsula, particularly when it comes to maintaining a friendly regime in Pyongyang as a buffer from the U.S. and South Korea forces stationed across the 38th parallel. Just a day after Kim[2]’s visit, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in North Korea[3] on Wednesday to finalize details for Trump[4]’s summit with Kim[5].

Kim[6] meanwhile registered his desire for Chinese support in the talks, particularly his call for a “phased and synchronous” approach to denuclearization, as opposed to Trump[7]’s demand for an immediate end to its nuclear programs.

“I think Xi wants to head-off a surprise outcome from the Trump-Kim[8] summit,” said Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

Xi and Kim[9] held talks Monday and Tuesday in the northern Chinese port of Dalian[10], the second time they’ve met in just over a month following Kim[11]’s unannounced trip to Beijing in late March. That was his first overseas visit since taking power six years ago and a powerful sign of the enduring relationship between the communist neighbors despite years of fraying ties.

The Dalian[12] summit was also significant in that Xi was expected to visit Pyongyang prior to Kim[13] returning to China[14], showing that Kim[15] has finally agreed to accept the role of “junior partner” in the relationship after a lengthy period of strained relations, said Michael Mazza of the American Enterprise Institute think tank in Washington, D.C.

Amid tranquil scenes of the two leaders chatting beside deep blue ocean waters and strolling through lush gardens, state media quoted Xi as telling Kim[16] that China[17] “supports North Korea[18] to stick to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and supports North Korea[19] and the U.S. in solving the peninsula issue through dialogue and consultation.”

Kim[20] said North Korea[21] remains committed to denuclearization and has no need to possess nuclear weapons if a “relevant party” drops its “hostile policy and security threats” against it, a clear reference to the United States.

The exact time and location of Kim[22]’s meeting with Trump[23] have not yet been announced. U.S. officials say besides working on those details, Pompeo will also press North Korea[24] for the release of three detained American citizens, whose imminent...

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