North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ventures overseas

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ventures overseas

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ventures overseas

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has arrived in Beijing at the start of a four-day visit.

Speculation had grown on Monday that Kim was possibly making his way to China after South Korea's Yonhap news reported that a North Korean train had been seen crossing the border.

Kim - whose birthday is reportedly on Tuesday - visited China three times past year for talks with Xi.

Kim used the same train to visit China previous year.

Behind the scenes, however, the White House has gradually taken a softer stance toward the North, with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence reportedly scrapping a planned speech last month that would have criticized the human rights abuses by the Kim regime - a cancellation that was due, at least in part, to concerns over angering or alienating Pyongyang and further derailing stalled denuclearization talks with Washington.

Kim's visit to China, confirmed by North Korean and Chinese state media, comes amid plans for a second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump aimed at denuclearising the Korean peninsula.

When asked if Kim's delegation might have contact with the USA trade delegation in Beijing, Lu said the two groups were not on the same level.

"A meeting between Kim and Xi would signal their willingness to further strengthen China-North Korea ties", said Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia and director of the China Power Project at Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.

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

After Kim traveled to China in March 2018 in his first foreign trip as North Korea's leader, Beijing and Pyongyang have deepened their ties.

Until news of Kim's departure for Beijing broke, attention outside of North Korea had been focused nearly exclusively on when, or whether, he would be making his first and much-anticipated trip to Seoul.

United States diplomats in Beijing have been seriously monitoring interactions between China and North Korea, a source familiar with the matter told Kyodo News.

Kim's statement about how he might have to choose a "new way" to guarantee the North's sovereignty and secure a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula caught the eye of many foreign analysts.

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

Since the Singapore summit, there is growing scepticism in the U.S. over Kim delivering on his promise to do away with the nuclear programme despite Washington's assurance over North Korea's security.

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.

Still, the North Korean leader is already refraining from putting all of his eggs in one basket, deftly appealing to outside powers in his New Year's speech by noting that, despite the stalled talks with the USA, he is willing to meet Trump again at any time to produce results "welcomed by the global community".

USA and Chinese officials are also holding trade talks in Beijing this week after agreeing on a temporary truce to their trade war last month. And Trump said he had received a "great letter" from Kim.

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

"Their behaviour has demonstrated that as well and we appreciate that", Pompeo said.

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

"It certainly has hurt the Chinese economy", Ross told CNBC, adding that China exports many more goods to the USA than the other way around. "China has actually been a good partner in our efforts to reduce the risk to the world from North Korea's nuclear capability".

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