North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may have returned empty-handed from the much-touted second summit with United States President Donald Trump , but analysts say the visit of China’s President Xi Jinping to Pyongyang may provide Kim with a much needed political boost – in the form of tonnes of food. As is customary with visits to the impoverished state by top Chinese leaders, Xi is widely expected to provide massive humanitarian aid to the North as a gift, with news reports in Seoul speculating that he could offer at least 100,000 tonnes of food. North Korea is likely to ask for food aid and Xi will probably respond to it positively Yang Moo-jin, University of North Korean Studies “ North Korea is likely to ask for food aid and Xi will probably respond to it positively [although this is unlikely to be publicised],” said Professor Yang Moo-jin at Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies. Xi will visit Pyongyang Thursday and Friday. Trump-Kim summit 2019: Collapsed talks a risk for North Korea with silver linings for China and Japan While Kim has travelled to China several times over the past year, it will be the first trip to Pyongyang by a Chinese leader in 14 years, since then president Hu Jintao paid a state visit to the North’s capital in 2005. North Korea’s chronic food shortages are worsening due to crushing global sanctions and years of unfavourable weather. The World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation recently reported that the country’s crop output for last year was its lowest since 2008, adding that an estimated 10 million people, or about 40 per cent of the population, are in urgent need of food. South Korea is seeking to send direct food assistance to the North in addition to providing US$8 million last week to the WFP and Unicef for their projects in North Korea, officials said. “Considering the fact that Beijing has usually brought gifts to meetings with top North Korean leaders, there will probably be some substantial amount of aid coming to Pyongyang this time as well,” said Shin Beom-chul, a senior researcher at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies. Jean H. Lee, director of the Hyundai Motor-Korea Foundation Centre for Korean History and Public Policy at the Washington-based Wilson Centre, wrote on Monday that regional leaders have started “pushing to create political momentum again for nuclear talks with North Korea ”. Xi’s trip to Pyongyang comes amid growing hopes for the resumption of nuclear talks between Washington and Pyongyang, after Kim sent Trump what the US president called a “beautiful” and “very warm” letter, nearly four months after their second summit ended without a deal in Hanoi . Trump and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in will meet later this month, and Moon has hinted he is pushing for another inter-Korean summit. Trump, Moon and a fight over the bill. In US-Korea ties, a perfect storm for Kim Jong-un “However, the question remains whether Xi will use the visit as a chance to pressure North Korea to take concrete steps toward denuclearisation – or whether he sees it as an opportunity to sideline Donald Trump,” Lee wrote on the centre’s website. “Kim has focused his energy on bilateral relations with the United States, and Xi may use this visit to assert his influence over Kim and diminish the impact of US policy on North Korea.” Xi’s visit will be “a much-needed diplomatic boost” for Kim, who wants to show his people that they still have China’s support after his status was diminished by the breakdown of the Hanoi summit, she wrote. “There’s certainly a sense of anxiety in Pyongyang regarding their political and economic future. Kim needs this high-profile visit to allay that palpable anxiousness among his power base,” Lee added. Abraham M. Denmark, director of the Wilson Centre’s Asia Programme, said North Korea remained the target of major international sanctions by the United Nations Security Council – of which China is a member. “So it will be interesting to see how Beijing navigates relations with Pyongyang and how faithfully they implement international sanctions,” he said. “I expect that Beijing would like to see more progress, or at least the appearance of progress, in negotiations between North Korea and the United States. “Beijing is likely worried that the lack of progress in negotiations could eventually devolve into another round of crisis and tension, so would like to make sure that diplomacy could continue – even if the prospects for tangible progress remain slim.” Wilson Centre fellow Katie Stallard-Blanchette said Xi would want to demonstrate that he is still “the key global player when it comes to dealing with North Korea”, adding that China’s top priority for the Korean peninsula remains stability, along with the avoidance of conflict and regime collapse. North Korea’s Kim Jong-un in China for two-day trip ‘to brief Xi Jinping on Donald Trump summit’ “For Kim, Xi’s visit will be used to demonstrate to his people that – despite the breakdown of talks with President Trump in Hanoi – he is still a respected and respectable global statesman who retains the support of the country’s most important ally, and to show the US that he is not completely isolated and desperate for a deal at any cost,” she said. Yang from the University of North Korean Studies said Kim had in the past met Xi for consultations on addressing the nuclear issue and conducting negotiations with the United States. The February summit in Hanoi collapsed as Pyongyang wanted sweeping sanctions relief in return for dismantling its Yongbyon nuclear complex, while Washington insisted that sanctions should remain in place until the North completely gives up its nuclear weapons programme. “Kim is likely to convey his willingness to take a more forthcoming stance through Xi to Trump, such as the inclusion of more nuclear facilities beyond those in Yongbyon for outside inspections in the first step of a deal,” Yang said.