Aug. 20 (UPI) -- China is to increase the volume of food supply to North Korea and is encouraging Chinese tourism to the country following President Xi Jinping's first state visit to Pyongyang, according to a Japanese press report.
The Asahi Shimbun reported Tuesday Beijing has decided to provide 1 million tons of rice and corn aid to North Korea after Xi's most recent summit with Kim Jong Un.
The food aid comes at a time of worsening drought in North Korea when, according to the World Food Program, 10 million North Koreans are facing food shortages due to decreasing crop production, or 12 percent year-on-year.
The aid could provide immediate relief, but Chinese analysts who spoke to the Asahi said North Korea still faces a grain shortage of 1.5 million to 1.8 million tons.
A Chinese official who spoke to the newspaper on the condition of anonymity said North Korea could "take a breather" with the help of Chinese assistance, and that Pyongyang, in turn, could become "tougher, more resistant."
North Korea-bound tourism, exempt from international sanctions, is also being encouraged in China, which shares a 880-mile contiguous border with the North.
According to the Asahi, Xi instructed Chinese travel agencies to increase the number of Chinese tourists to the North to 5 million people a year, a figure that would "balance" the 4.78 million Chinese travelers to South Korea who visited in 2018.
The report of improving China-North Korea relations comes at a time when North Korea continues to target the United States and South Korea for military exercises.
Korean Workers' Party paper Rodong Sinmun said Tuesday the exercises are training for "an invasion of the North."
The Rodong accused the South of pursuing "peace and unification" while simultaneously "undertaking invasive joint military exercises."
The computer-simulated drills concluded Tuesday.