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North Korean leader visits econ-tech zone in Beijing before heading home

10 January 2019

A train believed to be carrying North Korean leader Kim Jong Un left a station in the Chinese capital on Wednesday (Jan 9), a Reuters witness said.

Kim couldn't be seen, but was presumed to be on board the long train as it crossed on elevated tracks over a busy Beijing street and headed toward eastern China and the border with North Korea.

Kim travelled to China - his most important security and trade partner - before meetings previous year with Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves from his train before it departs from Pyongyang to make the trip to Beijing, China, Jan. 7, 2019.

Kim could not be seen but the limousine he uses was observed zipping east down a main thoroughfare in Beijing on Wednesday.

During the visit, the North Korean leader met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, and visited a pharmaceutical factory in southern Beijing, in addition to a high-tech economic development zone.

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The visit was Kim Jong Un's fourth to North Korea's primary diplomatic and economic ally since past year, and raises speculation that Kim was coordinating with China ahead of a possible second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.

"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 the US-based Centre for the National Interest, said in an e-mailed statement.

South Korea's Yonhap, without identifying its sources, said the two leaders held talks for an hour in which they discussed the second US-North Korea summit and strengthening bilateral ties.

"China will also introduce some successful experiences to Kim to help North Korea achieve economic transformation and realise the denuclearisation of the peninsula as soon as possible", Mr Lu told AFP.

China's official Xinhua news agency confirmed that Kim was visiting from Monday to Thursday at Xi's invitation.

"Kim needs the support of Xi so as to ask the USA to make substantial steps, such as providing assistance to North Korea and normalising relations with North Korea", Hua said.

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Discussions between the USA and North Korea over Pyongyang's nuclear arsenal have stalled since Mr Kim and Mr Trump's high-profile summit in Singapore in June where they issued a vaguely worded declaration about denuclearisation.

The United States insists that United Nations sanctions must remain in place until North Korea gives up its weapons, while Pyongyang wants them immediately eased.

The visit coincides with negotiations between USA and Chinese officials in Beijing to resolve a bruising trade war between the world's two biggest economies.

Shi Yinhong, an global relations professor at Renmin University in Beijing, said Kim's trip would have no direct influence on the progress of trade talks.

Kim added that the ongoing US-China trade talks seem to be Trump's priority more than any other issue at the moment. "China and the DPRK are friendly and close neighbours and it is also an important tradition for us to maintain friendly exchanges", Lu said, referring to North Korea's formal name. "The weight of North Korea is limited and can not play a decisive role", he said.

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North Korean leader visits econ-tech zone in Beijing before heading home