Thu, Jan 10, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Kim ends Xi visit as US summit looms

STRATEGY SESSION:Political commentator Hua Po said that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un must talk with Xi to see what steps he can take to deal with Trump

AFP, BEIJING

A train believed to be carrying North Korean leader Kim Jong-un passes along a railroad overpass as it heads away from Beijing Railway Station yesterday.

Photo: AP

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s train yesterday left Beijing after he visited his key ally on a trip seen as a strategy session ahead of his expected summit with US President Donald Trump.

Kim on Tuesday arrived in Beijing for his fourth visit to Pyongyang’s sole major diplomatic friend, reportedly visiting a factory and meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平).

Kim’s motorcade was spotted arriving at the Beijing Railway Station in the early afternoon and the train departed shortly after on a day-long ride back to the northeast border, according to Agence France-Presse journalists.

The unannounced trip was largely shrouded in secrecy. Beyond confirming his presence in Beijing, no details have been provided by either North Korea or China on his schedule.

Kim on Tuesday — believed to be his birthday — met for one hour with Xi and the two later dined with their wives at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.

The meeting focused on Kim’s expected meeting with Trump, Yonhap said.

In a New Year speech, Kim said that Pyongyang might change its approach to nuclear talks if Washington persists with sanctions.

Relations between China and North Korea had deteriorated in the past few years over Pyongyang’s nuclear activities, but Kim has made sure to keep Xi informed about his dealings with the US and South Korea as ties appear to have warmed.

“In order to resist the high pressure of the US, he must communicate with Xi in advance to see what steps he can take to deal with Trump,” Beijing-based independent political commentator Hua Po told reporters.

“Kim needs the support of Xi so as to ask the US to make substantial steps, such as providing assistance to North Korea and normalizing relations with North Korea,” Hua said.

Kim chose China for his maiden official trip abroad last year before holding meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Trump.

Trump on Sunday said that the US and North Korea are negotiating the location of their next summit.

Discussions between the US and North Korea over Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal have stalled since Kim and Trump’s high-profile summit in Singapore in June last year, at which they issued a vaguely worded declaration about denuclearization.

The US insists that UN sanctions must remain in place until North Korea gives up its weapons, while Pyongyang wants them immediately eased. China also wants the sanctions to be relaxed.

However, Chinese officials also likely want to impress on Kim — who has so far pursued only limited reforms to his statist economy — the benefits that the giant communist country has enjoyed in its transformation from impoverished nation to economic powerhouse.

Kim toured a factory operated by medicine firm Tongrentang for about 30 minutes in an economic zone in Beijing, Yonhap reported, citing unidentified sources.

He then went to the Beijing Hotel where he was expected to have lunch with Xi before his departure.

“For North Korea itself, 2019 is his strategic turning point. If he wants to shift his focus to the development of the economy, he needs China’s cooperation,” said Lu Chao, a North Korea expert at China’s Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences.

“China will also introduce some successful experiences to Kim to help North Korea achieve economic transformation and realize the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula as soon as possible,” Lu said.

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