North Korean leader in China to meet with Xi

Kim held three summits a year ago with Xi, his most important ally, before and after summits with Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. When the two met for the first time last March, they agreed to communicate more with each other about domestic and worldwide affairs.

Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He made a surprise appearance on Monday to greet the United States delegation of mid-level officials, a sign of China's willingness to avert a full-blown trade war.

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 global sanctions while giving up little, if any, ground on denuclearisation.

China, a veto-wielding permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, has agreed to several rounds of punishing economic sanctions against the North.

"Kim visited China before and after his summit with President Trump a year ago, so there is speculation that a second summit is forthcoming".

The last senior North Korean diplomat known to have defected is Thae Yong Ho, a former minister at the North Korean Embassy in London, who fled to South Korea in 2016.

Last year, Kim traveled to China on three occasions, just before and after major diplomatic summits with American and South Korean leaders took place.

Earlier on Monday the South Korean newspaper Munhwa Ilbo reported that US State Department officials recently met multiple times with North Korean counterparts in Hanoi.

A vehicle that is part of a motorcade believed to be carrying North Korean leader Kim Jong Un makes its way through central Beijing, China, Jan. 8, 2019.

In his annual New Year's speech last week, Mr Kim said he was committed to denuclearisation, but warned that he would change course if United States sanctions remained.

Trump has pushed heavily for Chinese support in convincing North Korea to give up its weapons programs, suggesting that could win Beijing better terms in a trade deal with Washington.

Highlighting just how sensitive the date is, viewers outside of North Korea were able to see video of Rodman's performance, but domestic audiences were merely told that the former National Basketball Association player had "sung him a special song".

The length of the trip has raised speculation that denuclearisation may not be the only topic of discussion, and that Mr Kim may be seeking advice from...

According to media reports, official North Korean calendars even marked Tuesday as a normal workday.

Mr Kim will be in the country 7-10 January with his wife Ri Sol-ju, North Korean news agency KCNA said.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Monday on US television that "there's a very good chance that we'll get a reasonable settlement that China can live with, that we can live with and that addresses all the key issues". Twitter is blocked in China.

"The two leaders will further communicate over the issue of sanctions to further refine their previously general and vague attitudes", said Cheng Xiaohe, professor at Renmin University's School of International Studies in Beijing.

"But Kim Jong Un's visit to Beijing could indirectly show President Trump that although China has maybe less economic cards, China still has some strategic and diplomatic cards", Shi said.


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