Kim Jong-un spends his birthday with Xi Jinping in Beijing

Charlene Craig
January 9, 2019

Kim has chosen to spend his birthday in China with the Chinese president Xi Jinping.

The Rodong Sinmun on its front page featured a photo of Kim Jong-un and Ri Sol-ju departing Pyongyang, with officials seeing them to their private train Monday afternoon.

The planned four-day visit, which is the fourth summit in a year between Kim and Xi, was confirmed by North Korean and Chinese state media.

On Monday, the first day of the two-day vice ministerial-level trade talks, the United States missile destroyer sailed near a group of islands in the waters claimed by China, as part of the Pentagon's "freedom of navigation" operation aimed at challenging Beijing's military activities there.

Rumors of another visit came late Monday night as a North Korean train passed into the Chinese city of Dandong under heavy security.

The olive green North Korean train, emblazoned with a yellow stripe, trundling towards Beijing station on Tuesday was the first sign leader Kim Jong Un and his entourage had arrived in the Chinese capital.

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On Sunday, he said negotiations were underway on the location of the next meeting with Kim. The Kim-Xi meeting comes ahead of a likely second summit with President Donald Trump, after the two leaders met in June to discuss denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.

Meanwhile, China refuted reports that it is using Kim as a bargaining chip to reach a trade deal with United States to end the trade war between the world's two top economies.

The Global Times concluded that Beijing would like to see "warming ties between Washington and Pyongyang with an agreement on a road map for denuclearization", but then shrugged and said it was entirely up to Washington to forge such an agreement by convincing Pyongyang to trust the Americans, and then shrugged again and admitted the Trump administration has exceeded all expectations by bringing an end to "nuclear tests, missile tests, and extreme threats" on the Korean Peninsula.

Kim - whose birthday is reportedly on Tuesday - visited China three times previous year for talks with Xi. The timeline may have overlapped with the two events taking place at the same time, he said.

"We have shown our sincerity, we have established our stand in this, so we don't need other actions to gain the confidence of the US. The United States is well aware of our position", Lu said. The North Korean leader said in his New Year's address last week that he might take a "new path" in negotiations if Trump didn't relax the sanctions squeezing his economy.

Mr Trump has offered assurances that another summit will allow he and Mr Kim to make a grand deal to settle the nuclear standoff and change a relationship marked by decades of animosity and mistrust.

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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".

Also, China and Russian Federation - both the permanent members of the UN Security Council - have been putting pressure on the U.S. to lift UN sanctions against North Korea.

"Inter-Korean, North-China and North-U.S. exchanges are underway, and we anticipate that this will lead to a virtuous cycle in which progress in each exchange will lend to progress in the other relations", continued spokesman Kim. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted that sanctions should be enforced "vigorously and without fail".

State-run Korea Central Television reported that Kim and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, are visiting China until tomorrow, at Xi's invitation.

Meanwhile, Chinese and USA officials continued closed door talks for the second and final day on Tuesday to work out a broad parameters of an agreement to be presented to their top leaders later.

The temporary ceasefire came after the two sides imposed import duties on more than US$300 billion of each other's goods.

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Without a resolution, punitive U.S. duty rates on US$200 billion of Chinese goods are due to rise from 10 percent to 25 percent on March 2. The move prompted China to increase tariffs on United States dollars 110 billions of USA goods.

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