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Kim Jong-un visits China

20 June 2018

Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and Chinese president, on Tuesday held talks with Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea and chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), in Beijing.

The North's leader, who is believed to have landed in the Chinese capital Tuesday morning, met Xi at the ornate Great Hall of the People.

The young autocrat was given a full ceremonial welcome, including a military revue and a gaggle of adoring children shouting out welcomes.

The outing comes as China has sought to strengthen its role as a mediator between the USA and North Korea, where Beijing claims compelling security and economic interests.

Kim Jong Un visiting China on the same day the Pentagon officially suspended a key military exercise with South Korea underscores the North Korean leader's success in rolling back the US-led "maximum pressure" campaign against his regime.

At that meeting, Kim pledged his country's commitment to work "towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula", while Trump vowed to provide security guarantees to North Korea. China is North Korea's only formal military ally and its most important economic lifeline, but has been irked by North Korea's repeated missile and nuclear tests, which Beijing sees as damaging to its goal of regional stability.

Cheng Xiaohe, an associate professor at Renmin University's School of International Studies in Beijing, said the frequency of Kim's visits was "unprecedented".

Japanese media reports citing unnamed sources claimed that Kim is likely to seek Xi's support in demanding worldwide sanctions to be eased. It applies exclusively to the August exercise Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, in which about 17,500 US troops gathered with South Korean counterparts a year ago in an exercise that focused heavily on computer-simulations to defend against a North Korean attack.

President Trump's recent indications that he hopes US troops on the Korean Peninsula will return home "eventually", is also likely good news for China.

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A trip by Kim to meet Xi to brief him on his summit with Trump, and to discuss likely next moves, had been widely anticipated.

During a joint press conference with Pompeo, Wang said China would like the U.S. and North Korea to see the summit as?a new starting point? from which they can?maintain a momentum of dialogue and consultation, accommodate each other's legitimate concerns, and work with other parties to advance the process of denuclearisation and the political settlement of the peninsula issue?. After his talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Pompeo stressed the importance of China being a constructive participant in the next steps? after the Trump-Kim summit. The New York Times also reported that some 100 North Koreans have been hired by clothing manufacturers in Hunchun, China.

Trump hailed this as a concession, but critics said the stock phrase long used by Pyongyang stopped short of longstanding USA demands for North Korea to give up its atomic arsenal in a "verifiable" and "irreversible" way. This year, he has met Chinese President Xi Jinping twice, South Korean President Moon Jae-in twice and Trump once. It has not used language similar to the North in regards to a phased approach to denuclearization.

The Pentagon confirmed Monday that major US military exercises this summer in South Korea would be suspended, following President Trump's decision.

Analysts saw this as a clear sign of Beijing's influence.

What has come out of the summit, so far, seems like a version of China's "dual suspension" strategy - a plan that asks North Korea to suspend nuclear testing in return for a suspension of military exercises.

Washington had previously rebuffed the proposal. On Tuesday, the USA and South Korean militaries confirmed they have called off upcoming joint exercises following Trump's order.

Kim's third visit to China since March is taking place amid sharp escalation of rhetoric between Beijing and Washington over tariffs nearly spiralling into a trade war. The Beijing visit, Kim's first overseas trip since taking power in 2011, was shrouded in secrecy and not confirmed until Kim's bullet proof train had returned home. President Trump has threatened to impose additional tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports, and China's government has said it will respond in kind.

"Also Kim Jong Un is seeking to establish this image as a normal leader of a normal country in the worldwide community".

Kim Jong-un visits China