With Trump in waiting, Kim courts China's support

With Trump in waiting, Kim courts China's support

Kim flew to Dalian in May and Beijing in June for his second and third meetings with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, and to Singapore - on board a borrowed Chinese airliner - for his June summit with US President Donald Trump.

In an unusual move, North Korean state media announced Mr Kim's visit yesterday morning before he, his wife and other senior officials even arrived in Beijing. It's Kim's fourth visit to China in a year.

The surprise visit, widely seen to be yet another counsel-seeking mission by Mr Kim in preparation for his anticipated second meeting with United States President Donald Trump, comes as U.S. trade representatives are in town for talks aimed at resolving a trade dispute between the two economic giants that has rattled global markets for months.

Kim is expected to meet with Xi just as North Korea and the US try to pinpoint a location for their next summit.

Kim also sent a letter to South Korean President Moon Jae-in in late December apologizing for not being able to make a visit to Seoul within the year as discussed at their summit in Pyongyang last September.

Kim could be looking to leverage his relationship with Xi, who Trump has accused of relaxing pressure on North Korea, to push the U.S.to make concessions in nuclear talks.

In a New Year's Day speech, Kim said he was ready to meet with Trump anytime, but he warned that if Washington persisted with sanctions, his country might be compelled to "find a new way for defending" its sovereignty and interests.

After Kim traveled to China in March 2018 in his first foreign trip as North Korea's leader, Beijing and Pyongyang have deepened their ties.

In the historic summit between America and North Korea a year ago, Trump touted what he said was a commitment by North Korea to denuclearize.

Kim is expected to stay at the highly secure Diaoyutai State Guest House in the capital's west, with meetings held at the Great Hall of the People, the hulking seat of the legislature that sits next to Tiananmen Square.

Singapore enjoyed great publicity and financial gains as the host of the historic summit between Trump and Kim in June past year.

The US delegation - led by Deputy US Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish and including officials from the US departments of treasury, commerce, agriculture and energy - left its hotel without speaking to reporters ahead of the talks.

Since the Singapore summit, there is growing scepticism in the United States over Kim delivering on his promise to do away with the nuclear programme despite Washington's assurance over North Korea's security.

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

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 USA to ease harsh worldwide sanctions that hold back the North Korean economy.

Kim's latest visit coincided with the second day of the crucial trade talks between the U.S. and Chinese officials here.

"China has always supported both sides to continue to hold talks and to reach a positive outcome", Lu said.

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 a year ago as Kim engaged with Beijing as well as Seoul and Washington.

"We especially hope that the exchange between China and North Korea this time will be a stepping stone for the second North Korea-U.S. summit", Kim said. "But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CNBC on Monday that China has so far kept the two issues separate".

A declaration to end the Korean War, a formal peace treaty and the establishment of bilateral relations between North Korea and the United States are seen as the kind of security guarantees that can be offered by Washington to Pyongyang if it denuclearizes. "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".

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