Chinese president Xi Jinping told his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump that there have been “positive changes” on the Korean peninsula, state media said on Tuesday following a phone call between the two leaders.
Trump has pushed Xi to increase economic and political pressure on North Korea in the hopes of convincing it to stop the development of its nuclear weapons program. Tensions have been high after the North staged a flurry of nuclear and missile tests and leader Kim Jong-Un traded threats of war and personal attacks with Trump.
But in recent weeks there has been an apparent rapprochement, with the two Koreas meeting for the first time in two years and Pyongyang agreeing to send athletes to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea.
In the phone call, Xi “pointed out that the situation on the Korean peninsula has shown some positive changes,” according to the official Xinhua news service. “All sides concerned should make joint efforts to keep up the hard-won momentum for the easing of the situation on the Korean peninsula and create conditions to restart talks,” he was quoted as saying.
The call comes as foreign ministers from 20 nations gathered in Vancouver to hold two-day crisis talks on North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs. But the U.S., which at the summit will review with its allies the effectiveness of current sanctions against the hermit kingdom and explore adding more, remains skeptical that Kim is ready to negotiate away his weapons program.
China has criticized the Vancouver talks—hosted by the U.S. and Canada and which exclude both Beijing and Moscow—and called for sanctions discussions to remain within the United Nations framework.
During Xi’s phone call with Trump, he also urged the U.S. president, who has taken a hard line against the trade imbalance between the two countries, to come to the table on economic issues. “The two countries should adopt constructive means to properly settle economic and trade issue of mutual concern through opening up markets to each other and making the cake of cooperation bigger,” Xinhua quoted Xi as saying.