Kim Jong-un takes 4-day trip to China to meet Xi

Geneva Stokes
January 9, 2019

While he did not give away Mr Kim's itinerary, South Korea's Yonhap news agency cited sources as saying that the North Korean leader and Chinese President Xi Jinping met yesterday for an hour and discussed aligning their positions ahead of a likely second summit between Mr Kim and Mr Trump.

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 official Rodong Sinmun reported on its front page Tuesday that Kim, accompanied by his wife Ri Sol-ju and top aides, kicked off a four-day visit to China Monday at the invitation of Xi.

South Korean presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said Tuesday that Seoul hopes Kim's trip to China will act as a "stepping stone" for a second Trump-Kim summit.

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

While the general consensus is that Trump and Kim will meet in an Asian country considering the limits on how far Kim's plane can fly, Washington has eliminated Mongolia from its list of possible hosts, making Vietnam a likely candidate.

Kim traveled to China - his most important security and trade partner - before meetings previous year with Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

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. "We are aware of the fact that Kim is visiting China, and we are closely monitoring the situation", Moon's office said.

In late December, North Korea said that it would not relinquish its nuclear weapons until the USA eliminates its own "nuclear threat". Kim may also seek China's support amid tight global and USA sanctions on North Korea.

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.

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It is hoped that the US and South Korea can accurately understand the constructive significance of amicable China-North Korea ties to push ahead with denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. It is rare for North Korean media to report so promptly the movement of their leader, especially when he is traveling out of the country.

"We are negotiating a location", Trump told reporters.

Likewise, Noh Kyu-duk, the spokesman of the South Korean Foreign Ministry, said Tuesday, "Our government is continuously working to push for inter-Korean, North-China and North-U.S. exchanges and denuclearization negotiations to happen in a mutual, virtuous cycle".

Kim would return to China twice: once before his summit meeting with U.S. President Donald J. Trump in Singapore in May and once after, in June.

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

"It certainly has hurt the Chinese economy", Ross told CNBC, adding that China exports many more goods to the U.S. than the other way around. 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.

When asked whether there can be contacts between the United States and North Korean officials in Beijing, he noted that "these two delegations are not quite of the same level".

"As to whether this is used as a bargaining chip by China in trade talks, I believe more Americans would think so than Chinese do", the tweet went on to say.

Last week, Trump said he had recently received a "great letter" from Kim, but declined to reveal its contents.

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