Kim's visit to China signals growing bond between two nations

North Korea's acting ambassador to Italy Jo Song Gil

North Korea's acting ambassador to Italy Jo Song Gil Credit Farra di Soligo Parish Aldo-Cietto

People watch a TV broadcast on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's visit to China, in Seoul, South Korea, Jan. 8, 2019.

The summit with Xi comes as Kim and President Donald Trump are negotiating over the location for a second summit meeting, and also came on Kim's 35th birthday yesterday.

The four-day trip from Monday to Thursday is Kim's fourth official visit to China, following three summits with Xi in March, May and June 2018.

North Korea rarely reports such visits until they are over.

The source told Yonhap it had not been confirmed whether a senior official was on board, but that dozens of security vehicles and officials had blocked the roads around a station in the Chinese border city of Dandong as the train passed.

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He is accompanied by his wife Ri Sol-ju, as well as Kim Yong-chol, Ri Su-yong, Pak Thae-song, Ri Yong-ho, No Kwang-chol and other leading North Korean officials, according to Korean state media KCNA.

Hu Xijin, the editor in chief at the Global Times said on Twitter Tuesday that "the timing of Kim's China visit is clearly linked to the planned second summit between him and President Trump".

Kim's visit comes as a USA delegation opened a second day of talks with Chinese counterparts in Beijing aimed at ending the bitter trade war between the world's two largest economies.

One diplomatic source said, "If Jo clearly intends to defect, there would be no reason for the USA or South Korea to refuse, but they will find it hard to actively make an offer to Jo".

But disagreements continued over the definition of denuclearisation and Kim complained in his New Year's speech that the United States hadn't taken reciprocal measures, particularly sanctions relief.

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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". "The US is very clear about China's position", he said, reaffirming China's commitment to reach a trade deal with US benefitting both the countries.

Kim's trip comes as the US and North Korea look to settle the North's decades-long pursuit of a nuclear arsenal.

Going back even further, Kim reportedly travelled with his father, Kim Jong Il, to China in 2010. He also visited China three times, notably without a reciprocal visit from Xi in a break with diplomatic convention.

These include more Chinese purchases of USA goods and services to reduce a yawning trade gap, increased access to China's markets, stronger protection of intellectual property and a reduction in Beijing's subsidies.

"Their behaviour has demonstrated that as well and we appreciate that", Pompeo said. Kim is also expected to meet Moon again soon, possibly in Seoul.

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This is the first time the two sides have met face to face since President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed to a tariff truce during a meeting in Argentina on December 1.

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