North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-Un Spends Birthday in China

Hugh Fox
January 9, 2019

Kim left for China on a private train on Monday afternoon accompanied by his wife, Ri Sol Ju, and senior North Korean officials, including Kim Yong Chol, a key negotiator in talks with the United States, and foreign minister Ri Yong Ho, North Korea's state-run KCNA news agency said. Notably, Kim would be spending what is presumably his 35th birthday on January 8 in China.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is in Beijing this week, his fourth visit in a less than a year.

The visit by Kim suggests that he is seeking Xi's advice or highlighting his country's alliance with China as he prepares for another meeting with Trump.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a previous summit in June this year. In 2018, Kim met with Xi three times-the same number of times as South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

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".

As a tit-for-tat tariff war waged by Trump early past year has shown signs of choking China's economic growth, Xi "really wants to resolve the trade dispute with the United States", the diplomat said, adding, "North Korea can be a very good bargaining chip".

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In a New Year's Day speech, Kim said he was ready to meet with Trump anytime, but he warned that if Washington persisted with sanctions, his country might be compelled to "find a new way for defending" its sovereignty and interests. Usually coverage only starts after the leader returns safely to North Korea.

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

China will "definitely" use North Korea as a bargaining chip to gain concessions from the United States over trade issues, the source said, adding the Trump administration may be forced to review its negotiating policy to "knock down" Beijing.

His visit to Beijing, which is stated to be closest ally of Pyongyang, comes at a time when China itself is locked in a trade war with the U.S. over Trump's demand to reduce the United States dollars 375 billion trade deficit with the US.

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".

Tuesday also happens to be the reclusive North Korean leader's birthday. North Korea insists that Washington first build trust by lifting the sanctions imposed on that country.

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

North Korea has held off on additional nuclear weapons and missile tests for more than a year, possibly in response to China's displeasure, while carrying out its new diplomatic offensive.

On Monday, the first day of the two-day vice ministerial-level trade talks, the U.S. 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.

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

Trump has been asking Xi to prevail on the North Korean leader to give up nuclear programme.

Kim is expected to stay at the highly secure Diaoyutai State Guest House in the capital's west, with meetings held at the Great Hall of the People, the hulking seat of the legislature that sits next to Tiananmen Square. "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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