Wednesday, January 9th, 2019

N. Korea’s Kim ends Beijing visit as Trump summit looms

Published 11:16 pm | January 09, 2019

Kim Jong Un’s train left Beijing on Wednesday after the North Korean leader visited his key ally on a trip seen a
strategy session ahead of his expected summit with Donald Trump.

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

The North Korean leader’s motorcade was spotted arriving at the Beijing
central railway station early afternoon, and the train departed shortly after
on a day-long ride back to the northeast border, according to AFP
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 met for one hour with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday —
believed to be the North Korean leader’s birthday — and the two later dined
with their wives at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, according to South
Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

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

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

Relations between China and North Korea had deteriorated in recent years
over Pyongyang’s nuclear activities, but Kim has made sure to keep Xi
informed about his dealings with the United States 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 AFP.

“Kim needs the support of Xi so as to ask the US to make substantial steps,
such as providing assistance to North Korea and normalising 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 said Sunday that the United States 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 where they issued a vaguely worded declaration about
denuclearisation.

The United States insists that United Nations 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.

– Factory tour –

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

Yonhap, citing unidentified sources, reported that Kim toured a factory
operated by medicine firm Tongrentang for about half an hour in an economic
zone in the Chinese capital.

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 realise the denuclearisation of the
peninsula as soon as possible,” Lu told AFP.

In the New Year speech, Kim focused on North Korea’s moribund economy,
saying that improving people’s lives was his top priority and tackling energy
shortages was an urgent task.

Hua, the Beijing-based analyst, said changes in the economic model will
affect politics, “which poses new challenges to his control over the
country.”

“For this point, he must ask for advice from China.”

The visit coincided with negotiations between US and Chinese officials in
Beijing to resolve a bruising trade war between the world’s two biggest
economies.

Some analysts say China could use its cooperation on the North Korean issue
as a bargaining chip in the US trade talks.

But Hua said Kim’s visit would have a “limited” effect on the trade
negotiations.

“The Sino-US trade negotiations are a matter between China and the US. The weight of North Korea is limited and cannot play a decisive role,” he said.

(AFP)

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