, SEOUL, July 3 – China’s president arrived in Seoul Thursday for a state visit seen as a snub to Beijing’s traditional ally North Korea, whose nuclear weapons ambitions will dominate talks with South Korean leader Park Geun-Hye.
It was Xi Jinping’s first trip as head of state to the perennially volatile Korean peninsula, and will mark his second summit with Park, who visited China last year.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un is still waiting for an invitation to Beijing – a calculated rebuff that speaks to the strained relationship between Pyongyang and its historic and most important ally.
“No previous Chinese leader has put South Korea before and above the North like this,” said Aidan Foster-Carter, a Korea expert at Leeds University.
In what some saw as a display of pique at Xi’s visit, North Korea conducted a series of rocket and missile launches over the past week and pledged further tests in the future.
And Pyongyang scored a diplomatic victory of its own Thursday, as Japan announced it was revoking some of its unilateral sanctions on North Korea after progress in talks on the Cold War kidnapping of Japanese nationals.
Japan and North Korea do not have formal diplomatic ties, and the announcement by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is a significant step forward for a relationship that has been testy for decades.