Tuesday, 22 January, 2019

North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-Un Spends Birthday in China

Thae Yong-ho who fled his post as North Korea's deputy ambassador to Britain in August 2016 Thae Yong-ho who fled his post as North Korea's deputy ambassador to Britain in August 2016 Credit JUNG YEON-JE AFP
Leonard Rios | 09 January, 2019, 09:25

Kim flew to Dalian in May and Beijing in June for his second and third meetings with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, and to Singapore - on board a borrowed Chinese airliner - for his June summit with US President Donald Trump.

A train presumably carrying Kim was spotted late Monday night in the Chinese border city of Dandong, where security was suddenly tightened.

The North Korean leader, accompanied by his wife Ri Sol Ju and several senior officials, had set off from Pyongyang on his private train on Monday, the official Korean Central News Agency reported.

Kim's visit to North Korea's most important economic and diplomatic ally, which was first reported by South Korean media, follows reports of advanced negotiations for a second summit between Washington and Pyongyang aimed at resolving the standoff over North Korea's nuclear program.

The article said Kim arrived in Beijing seeking a breakthrough in denuclearization talks and ways to improve ties with the United States.

Two of Kim's earlier visits past year came shortly before historic summits with both South Korea's Moon Jae-In and US President Donald Trump.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Monday that China's economy was more vulnerable to the fallout from the trade war.

Though China has historically been North Korea's most important partner and closest benefactor, relations between Pyongyang and Beijing had appeared to cool as North Korea pursued the completion of its nuclear deterrent-a milestone that Kim celebrated in November 2017.

Kim's four-day visit comes after he expressed frustration in his annual New Year's address over the lack of progress in negotiations with Washington since his unprecedented summit with Trump in Singapore seven months ago.

South Korea's Yonhap, without identifying its sources, said the two leaders held talks for an hour in which they discussed the second U.S. Still, that risks bringing North Korea under greater control of its larger and wealthier neighbor - something the regime has fought to avoid over the past six decades.

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Providing the bulk of both North Korea's diplomatic support, trade and aid. Kim's fourth visit was significantly more public than his previous three trips, with unusual open announcements from both the Chinese and North Korean governments.

"We are negotiating a location", Trump told reporters.

The four-day visit could be a chance for the two leaders to coordinate ahead of a second summit between Kim and President Trump, NPR's worldwide correspondent Anthony Kuhn reports.

In his New Year's address on January 1, Kim also emphasized the importance of promoting multilateral talks on creating a "peace mechanism" in the region instead of an armistice agreement that halted the Korean War, in apparent consideration of China.

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 USA to ease harsh worldwide sanctions that hold back the North Korean economy.

Following his first visit, North Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement noting that Kim had pledged to "steadily carry forward and develop the Sino-DPRK friendship which the leaders of elder generations personally provided and nurtured with sincerity in the course of contributing to the victorious advance of the socialist cause, out of common ideal, faith and deep revolutionary friendship". However, Xi has called on the sides to "meet each other halfway", and China's foreign minister in September urged some form of sanctions relief in response to any positive outcomes from the first Kim-Trump summit.

Dr Shin Chang-hoon, senior research fellow at the Korea Institute for Maritime Strategy, said Mr Kim "shows his inclination towards China whenever a significant decision is awaiting". "The US is very clear about China's stance".

But relations went through a rough patch in recent years as China backed United Nations sanctions over the North's nuclear tests.

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.

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