Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s leader, visits China

Trump touts 'good relationship' with N. Korea

North Korean leader KimJong-un arrived in China on Tuesday on an unannounced visit, in an apparent effort to co-ordinate with his only major ally ahead of a possible second summit with US President Donald Trump over denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. Notably, Kim would be spending what is presumably his 35th birthday on January 8 in China.

Previous year marked unprecedented progress in denuclearization talks, with Kim holding summits with Trump, Xi, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

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...

A whirlwind of diplomacy enveloped the Korean peninsula past year, with Kim also meeting the South's President Moon Jae-in three times, and culminating in his high-profile Singapore summit with Trump in June.

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.

With its relations with Pyongyang remaining at an impasse, the United States has become anxious that China may seize the initiative on denuclearization negotiations with North Korea, pundits say.

As a tit-for-tat tariff war waged by Trump early a year ago has shown signs of choking China's economic growth, Xi "really wants to resolve the trade dispute with the United States", the diplomat said, adding, "North Korea can be a very good bargaining chip".

In a New Year's speech, Kim warned Washington the country might be forced to take an alternative path if the U.S.

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.

The trip is at Xi's invitation and set to run until Thursday, according to KCNA and China's official Xinhua news agency.

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

However, Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies senior adviser Bonnie Glaser said that the timing of the North Korean leader's arrival could be coincidental. "Analysts believe North Korea is betting everything on a second summit with Trump, where they will try to manipulate him into making more concessions". He has since met Xi in China two more times, in May and June before and after his historic summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.

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 United States to ease harsh global sanctions that hold back the North Korean economy. Armed with that information, Kim might know how much he can push back against the Trump administration if it refuses to compromise on sanctions, Kazianis said.

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

Kim's visit comes as a USA 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. "But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CNBC on Monday that China has so far kept the two issues separate".

Washington and Pyongyang seemed close to war at points during 2017, as the North staged a series of increasingly powerful weapons tests that got it tantalisingly close to its nuclear goal of one day targeting with pinpoint accuracy anywhere on the U.S. mainland.

Mr Trump has offered assurances that another summit will allow he and Mr Kim to make a grand deal to settle the nuclear standoff and change a relationship marked by decades of animosity and mistrust. "China has actually been a good partner in our efforts to reduce the risk to the world from North Korea's nuclear capability".

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.

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