Published: Wed, January 09, 2019
Worldwide | By Angelina Lucas

Kim Jong Un makes 4th visit to China in a year

Kim Jong Un makes 4th visit to China in a year

Kim Jong Un is making his fourth visit to China, state media reported, in a sign that the North Korean leader may be consulting China's President Xi Jinping ahead of a possible second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump. The trip coincides with what is believed to be his 35th birthday.

Kim, accompanied by his wife Ri Sol-ju and senior officials including Kim Yong-chol - his right-hand man in diplomatic negotiations with the USA and South Korea, arrived in Beijing on his private train.

After years of cool relations following Mr Kim's assumption of power 2011, ties have improved remarkably over the past year as Mr Xi seeks to maintain his influence in the region.

Moon's office said Tuesday that it considered Kim's visit a "positive development of many situations".

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Monday that China's economy was more vulnerable to the fallout from the trade war.

While China and Russian Federation have said the United Nations should consider relaxing sanctions on North Korea, Trump insisted Sunday that they would remain "in full force and effect" until the USA sees "very positive" results in the nuclear issue. Both visited China and South Korea six years after inheriting power, with the elder Kim creating what Sung-Yoon Lee, a Korea expert at The Fletcher School at Tufts University in the USA, characterized as " a dramatic mood swing in Northeast Asia" - a plan Kim Jong Un appears set on emulating.

Kim's alternatives to US talks include building closer ties with China.

Culminating in late 2017, Pyongyang carried out six nuclear tests and launched rockets capable of reaching the entire United States mainland, but has now carried out no such tests for more than a year.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang gave no details about Kim's schedule or China's role as an intermediary between the USA and North Korea. After the meeting, Mr Xi and his wife were believed to have hosted a welcome dinner for Mr Kim and his wife at the Great Hall of the People, reported Yonhap, which also said the North Korean leader was expected to visit industrial facilities in the north-eastern port city of Tianjin during his three-day visit.

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North Korea's state-run Central Television also confirmed the visit, reporting that Kim started the four-day visit Monday at Xi's invitation.

The talks between the US delegation led by Deputy US Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish and including officials from the Treasury, Commerce, Agriculture and Energy departments and the Chinese side were still ongoing late Tuesday, a source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Since the Singapore summit, there is growing scepticism in the USA over Kim delivering on his promise to do away with the nuclear programme despite Washington's assurance over North Korea's security. Tuesday also happens to be Kim's birthday.

But even after what was seen as a blockbuster summit between Mr Kim and Mr Trump in Singapore last June - the first-ever between the leaders of the war enemies - there has been little real progress in nuclear disarmament.

Washington is demanding Pyongyang give up its nuclear arsenal before any relief from economic sanctions is granted, while the North is insisting on immediate concessions from the US.

In May 2018, Trump once chose to cancel his planned talks with Kim, saying he detected North Korea starting to take a tougher stance against the United States in the wake of the second summit between Beijing and Pyongyang earlier in the month. When asked whether North Korean officials would meet with USA officials during their visit, he said the delegations were at different levels.

"The Chinese have been very clear to us that these are separate issues", Pompeo said. "China has actually been a good partner in our efforts to reduce the risk to the world from North Korea's nuclear capability; I expect they will continue to do so".

But despite a cooling of relations previous year with China over the imposition of sanctions, China has and remains its most important economic and diplomatic ally.

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