Kim Jong-un visits China for summit after warning of alternate path should US not ease North Korea sanctions
Kim Jong-un and his wife Ri Sol-ju at Pyongyang Station in Pyongyang, North Korea, before leaving for China. (AP/Korea News Service)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is visiting China at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, only days after warning he may take an alternative path if the United States does not ease sanctions and pressure on his isolated country.
- Mr Kim’s distinctive armoured train was expected to reach Beijing on January 8, which happens to be his birthday
- The meeting comes amid plans for a second summit with US President Donald Trump aimed at denuclearisation
- Mr Kim warned that he may seek an alternative path to a summit with Trump if US sanctions and pressure against the country continues
The visit, confirmed by North Korean and Chinese state media, will likely lead to Mr Kim’s fourth summit with Mr Xi in the last year and comes amid plans for a second summit with US President Donald Trump aimed at denuclearising the Korean peninsula.
South Korean media reported that Mr Kim’s distinctive armoured train was expected to reach Beijing on Tuesday morning (local time), which happens to be his birthday.
Police officers keep watch over North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s train at Beijing railway station. (Reuters: Jason Lee)
Mr Kim held three summits with Xi, his most important ally, last year, before and after summits with Mr Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
“[Mr] Kim is eager to remind the Trump administration that he does have diplomatic and economic options besides what Washington and Seoul can offer,” Harry J Kazianis, Director of Defence Studies at US-based Centre for the National Interest said in an e-mailed statement.
“In fact, during his New Year’s Days speech, [Mr] Kim’s ‘new way’ that he referred to may well have been a veiled threat to move closer to Beijing. That should make America quite concerned.”
Mr Kim left for China on a private train on Monday afternoon accompanied by his wife, Ri Sol-ju, and other senior North Korean officials, including Kim Yong-chol and Ri Yong-ho, North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency said.
“He was warmly seen off by leading officials of the Party, government and armed forces organs at the railway station,” KCNA said in its report.
Mr Kim’s visit of North Korea’s most important economic and diplomatic ally comes amid reports of advanced negotiations for a second summit between Washington and Pyongyang aimed at resolving the standoff over North Korea’s nuclear programme.
Mr Kim said in a New Year speech last week he is ready to meet Mr Trump anytime to achieve their common goal of denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. But he warned that he may seek an alternative path to a summit with Mr Trump if US sanctions and pressure against the country continues.
China has been trying to put its stamp on North Korea’s upcoming diplomatic efforts. (Xinhua)
Ties between China and North Korea, which had frayed as Pyongyang stepped up its provocations through a series of missile and nuclear tests, warmed over the last year as Mr Kim engaged with Beijing as well as Seoul and Washington.
Neither KCNA nor Xinhua provided further information on Mr Kim’s itinerary, though South Korea’s Hankyoreh newspaper reported that he will meet with Mr Xi for a fourth summit.