North Korea holds mass celebration in Xi’s honor amid talks on US tensions

Xi Jinping and Kim Jong Un attended an elaborate celebration in Pyongyang Thursday celebrating 70 years of diplomatic relations between China and North Korea, underscoring their alliance amid challenges posed by the United States.

Fireworks burst into the sky over the May 1 stadium in the North Korean capital, while enormous signs proclaimed that the two countries were “true and reliable comrades.”

“Long live the unbreakable friendship and union between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Chinese people,” one banner said.

In one image, composed of hundreds of people holding up cards, rainbows linked the Forbidden City in Beijing and the Arch of Triumph in Pyongyang, while both leaders looked on with broad smiles.

The performance was described as a display of “undefeatable socialism” in North Korean state broadcaster KCNA. In the evening, state media said both leaders held a “warm” banquet where each toasted the other and expressed their hopes for a “beautiful future” for relations between the two countries.

President Xi returned to China Friday afternoon, according to state media. His visit was the first by a Chinese leader in 14 years.

His two day state visit to North Korea comes just one week before Xi is expected to fly to the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, where he will meet for bilateral talks with US President Donald Trump.

It remains to be seen whether they can break the deadlock in trade negotiations between the two countries after talks broke down unexpectedly at the beginning of May.

In response, the Trump administration increased tariffs to 25% on an estimated $200 billion of Chinese imports.

North Korea’s diplomatic relationship with the US has been chilly as well since February when Trump walked out of nuclear disarmament talks in Hanoi, Vietnam, with Kim Jong Un.

No further negotiations around the surrender of Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal are planned at this time.

But some analysts said that the two-day trip by Xi could indicate some movement on the stalled US talks, saying China is keen to showcase its potential contribution to improving relations between the two countries.

“If China’s mediation can prove helpful, it would also help demonstrate the usefulness of China to the United States as a constructive partner over key regional issues,” said Tong Zhao, a fellow at the Beijing-based Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy.

China’s state broadcaster CCTV quoted Kim as saying 250,000 people welcomed the Chinese leader in the streets of the North Korean capital Thursday. Both Xi and Kim held bilateral talks on Thursday although only Chinese state media addressed the ongoing tensions with Washington.

According to China’s Xinhua, Xi told Kim that “the international community” was hoping for further successful talks between North Korea and the US on denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.

Xi previously visited Pyongyang in 2008, when he was China’s vice president and when Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il, ruled North Korea.

His trip Thursday was the first visit of a Chinese leader to North Korean since 2005, a time period marred by mutual mistrust and, at times, outright loathing between the two countries.

CCTV previously reported at the start of the trip that Xi said the relationship between China and North Korea is a “strategic choice made by both sides and won’t be shaken no matter how the international situation changes.”

CNN’s Serenitie Wang contributed to this article.