Kim makes surprise visit to Beijing, East Asia News & Top Stories

Kim makes surprise visit to Beijing, East Asia News & Top Stories

While US president Donald Trump waits in the wings, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived in Beijing on Tuesday for his fourth summit with China's Xi Jinping - yet another nod to the leader Kim most needs to court as he tries to undermine support for worldwide sanctions while giving up little, if any, ground on denuclearisation.

Rumors of another visit came late Monday night as a North Korean train passed into the Chinese city of Dandong under heavy security.

The North's Korean Central News Agency said Kim departed Monday afternoon with his wife, Ri Sol Ju, and other top officials.

By inviting Kim to visit China on January 8, believed to be his birthday, Xi has successfully staged an amicable relationship with Kim, foreign affairs experts say.

Kim's trip coincides with the second day of talks between U.S. and Chinese officials in Beijing aimed at resolving their trade war, but China rejected the notion that it was using the North Korean issue as a bargaining chip in the negotiations.

Kim said in a New Year speech last week he is ready to meet Trump anytime to achieve their common goal of denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a previous summit in June this year.

He came again, this time on his 36th birthday, in an apparent effort to co-ordinate with his only major ally ahead of a possible second summit with Trump over denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

"With North Korea, we have a very good dialogue", he told reporters before boarding a helicopter for the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland, where he said he would be discussing a trade deal with China. But he warned that he may seek an alternative path to a summit with Trump if USA sanctions and pressure against the country continues.

South Korea's Yonhap, without identifying its sources, said the two leaders held talks for an hour in which they discussed the second U.S.

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.

Some observers believe that while it is tempting to interpret this "new way" as being a thinly veiled threat of more nuclear or missile tests, it could instead be an implicit warning that the North could further bolster its already improving ties with China if the USA fails to ante up.

On Sunday, he said negotiations were underway on the location of the next meeting with Kim.

Bloomberg News optimistically took Kim's meeting with Xi as a sign "negotiations over North Korea's nuclear arsenal may be regaining momentum after months without high-level diplomatic meetings".

The four-day visit could be a chance for the two leaders to coordinate ahead of a second summit between Kim and President Trump, NPR's global correspondent Anthony Kuhn reports.

Washington is pressing North Korea to offer up a detailed accounting of its nuclear arsenal, while the North says it has already done enough and it's time for the ease the harsh worldwide sanctions that hold back the North Korean economy.

Kim's visit comes as a USA delegation opened a second day of talks with Chinese counterparts in Beijing aimed at ending the trade war between the world's two largest economies.

Dr Shin Chang-hoon, senior research fellow at the Korea Institute for Maritime Strategy, said Mr Kim "shows his inclination towards China whenever a significant decision is awaiting". However, Xi has called on the sides to "meet each other halfway", and China's foreign minister in September urged some form of sanctions relief in response to any positive outcomes from the first Kim-Trump summit. "The US is very clear about China's stance".

North Korea has held off on additional nuclear weapons and missile tests for more than a year, possibly in response to China's displeasure, while carrying out its new diplomatic offensive. "US and North Korean officials are believed to have met in Vietnam to discuss the location of a second summit", the Associated Press reports.

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