North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, accompanied by his wife Ri Sol Ju and top North Korean officials, has arrived in China for a four-day visit at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, as preparations increase for a second summit with US President Trump.
During his stay in China, Kim is expected to hold his fourth summit with Xi. The visit comes a week after Kim warned that North Korea may seek an alternative course if the United States maintains sanctions and pressure on his country.
Analysts also believe that Kim is eager to use the fact that relations between China and the US are strained amid the world’s two biggest economies’ bitter trade war, in order for North Korea to get as much as possible out of the expected talks.
In his annual New Year’s address last week, Kim renewed his commitment to denuclearization but added that the progress would be faster if Washington took the corresponding action.
North Korea would have “no option but to explore a new path in order to protect our sovereignty” if the US “miscalculates our people’s patience, forces something upon us and pursues sanctions and pressure without keeping a promise it made in front of the world”, Kim said, adding that he was ready to meet Trump again at any time.
Christopher Hill, a former US ambassador to South Korea, said Kim’s visit to China may be Beijing’s way of ensuring it remains a player in any future developments with Washington.
The visit also coincided with what South Korean officials say is Kim Jong-un’s 35th birthday on January 8.