Kim visit to Xi possible summit prep

Minnie Murray
January 9, 2019

FILE - People watch a screen showing images of, from left, South Korea's president Moon Jae-in, US president Donald Trump, China's president Xi Jinping, and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un at a railway station in Seoul, May 11, 2018.

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

In this Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, photo provided on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019 by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walks with his wife Ri Sol Ju at Pyongyang Station in Pyongyang, North Korea, before leaving for China.

Mr Kim's trip, announced earlier by both sides, comes after USA and North Korean officials are believed to have met in Vietnam to discuss the location of a second summit.

Instead, Kim may be seeking to gauge China's attitude toward sanctions ahead of the talks, including what North Korea would have to concede in order to win Beijing's support at the United Nations.

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

The visit, confirmed by North Korean and Chinese state media, will likely lead to Kim's fourth summit with Xi in the past year and comes amid plans for a second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump aimed at denuclearising the Korean peninsula. "The US is very clear about China's position", he said, reaffirming China's commitment to reach a trade deal with US benefitting both the countries.

In a New Year's speech, Kim warned Washington the country might be forced to take an alternative path if the U.S. The timing of the visit - as US and Chinese officials work to hash out a trade deal - has some wondering whether Beijing is trying its hand at playing the so-called North Korea card, to use the issue as leverage.

In a break with previous visits, Chinese state media confirmed the North Korean leader's trip while he was still in the country.

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 US fails to ante up.

Kim Jong Un as expressed frustration with the USA after his meetings with president Donald Trump.

Kim made two visits to China before his June 12 summit with Trump, and one after the Singapore summit.

The North Korean leader will be in China until Thursday, making this his longest visit to date.

Kim's statement about how he might have to choose a "new way" to guarantee the North's sovereignty and secure a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula caught the eye of many foreign analysts.

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. As the second Trump-Kim meeting approaches, we can expect shuttle diplomacy between Pyongyang and Beijing.

Ties between China and North Korea, which had frayed as Pyongyang stepped up its provocations through a series of missile and nuclear tests, warmed over the past year as Kim engaged with Beijing as well as Seoul and Washington.

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

The Global Times concluded that Beijing would like to see "warming ties between Washington and Pyongyang with an agreement on a road map for denuclearization", but then shrugged and said it was entirely up to Washington to forge such an agreement by convincing Pyongyang to trust the Americans, and then shrugged again and admitted the Trump administration has exceeded all expectations by bringing an end to "nuclear tests, missile tests, and extreme threats" on the Korean Peninsula. "The US is very clear about China's stance". "China has actually been a good partner in our efforts to reduce the risk to the world from North Korea's nuclear capability".

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