North Korea's Kim ends Beijing visit as Trump summit looms

Frederick Owens
January 10, 2019

Chinese President Xi Jinping offered North Korean leader Kim Jong Un firm backing in deadlocked nuclear talks with the United States and reasserted Beijing's key role in the wider process, according to the two allies' state media Thursday.

The long train was seen Wednesday travelling on an elevated track over a busy street heading toward eastern China.

The US is refraining from negative comments on Kim's trip because China has been tough on the enforcement of United Nations sanctions against North Korea and trade talks with Beijing are going smoothly, said Kim Hyun-wook, a professor at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy.

Mr Kim arrived in Beijing on Tuesday for a fourth visit to his country's sole major diplomatic friend, a trip seen as a strategy session ahead of his possible second meeting with Mr Trump on Pyongyang's nuclear programme.

Shi Yinhong, an global relations professor at Renmin University in Beijing, said Kim's trip would have no direct influence on the progress of trade talks. For Xi, whose country provides a lifeline to North Korea's anemic economy, the meeting with Kim reminds Trump that China's co-operation will make any nuclear deal more effective.

North Korea wants relief from the multiple sets of sanctions imposed on it over its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programs, while the USA wants them to remain in place until it gives up its arms - something Pyongyang has made no public promise to do.

In his New Year's Day speech, Kim warned that he could go a new way if the United States clings to pressure and sanctions on the North's regime.

China's official Xinhua news agency confirmed that Kim was visiting from Monday to Thursday at Xi's invitation.

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Yonhap said Kim visited a technology development zone and spent around 20-30 minutes touring a factory run by famed traditional Chinese medicine maker Tong Ren Tang.

Yonhap said Mr. Kim met with Mr. Xi for about an hour on Tuesday and later attended a dinner at the Great Hall of the People in central Beijing hosted by Mr. Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan. Kim was accompanied by his wife, Ri Sol Ju, the agency said.

Kim Jong Un had said he is ready to meet Trump again for the denuclearisation of Korean Peninsula.

Xi has yet to visit North Korea since taking office in 2012.

Mr Trump said on Sunday that the USA and North Korea are negotiating the location of their next summit. Tuesday was Kim's birthday.

Relations between China and North Korea had deteriorated in recent years over Pyongyang's nuclear activities, but Kim has made sure to keep Xi informed about his dealings with the United States and South Korea as ties appear to have warmed.

"We always believe that, as key parties to the Korean Peninsula issue, it's important for the two sides to maintain contact and we always support their dialogue to achieve positive outcomes", Lu said.

Kim's visit also came after he expressed frustration in his annual New Year's address over the lack of progress in negotiations with Washington since the Singapore summit with Trump in June, saying that if things don't improve - meaning that if sanctions relief and security guarantees aren't in the offing - the North might have to find "a new way" forward.

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