Kim Jong Un travels to China ahead of possible 2nd USA summit

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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang dismissed Tuesday the allegations that Beijing sought to use strong ties with visiting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as a trump card in the ongoing trade talks with the United States in Beijing.

In this Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, photo provided on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019 by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walks with his wife Ri Sol Ju at Pyongyang Station in Pyongyang, North Korea, before leaving for China.

Kim's father and predecessor Kim Jong Il, who is said to have had a fear of flying, stuck to the rails for his own foreign travels, using high-security trains for his seven visits to China and three to Russian Federation over his 1994-2011 term.

"Kim visited China before and after his summit with President Trump a year ago, so there is speculation that a second summit is forthcoming".

Kim and Trump pledged to work towards denuclearisation at their landmark June summit in Singapore, but the agreement was short on specifics.

Kim's visit to China, confirmed by North Korean and Chinese state media, comes amid plans for a second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump aimed at denuclearising the Korean peninsula. Moon has expressed hopes for another meeting with Kim soon, ideally held in Seoul to fulfill Kim's promise to pay a historic visit to the South Korean capital.

Kim's remark suggests bringing Beijing into negotiations to establish a peace process on the Korean Peninsula, now revolving around the United States and the two Koreas.

In his tweet in August previous year Trump had said North Korea was "under tremendous pressure from China because of our major trade disputes with the Chinese government".

His fourth visit to China comes a week after Kim warned in a New Year's speech that Pyongyang may change its approach to nuclear talks if Washington persists with sanctions. But he said Beijing remains supportive of efforts to end tensions over US demands for a halt to North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

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"Washington has expressed concerns that China could use the North Korean issue for leverage in its trade disputes with the U.S.", Kuhn reports.

China's official Xinhua News Agency issued a nearly-identical report, while Beijing's North Railway Station was cocooned in security, with dozens of police and paramilitary troops patrolling outside.

The US delegation - led by Deputy US Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish and including officials from the US departments of treasury, commerce, agriculture and energy - left its hotel without speaking to reporters ahead of the talks.

However, outside analysts are highly skeptical that North Korea will easily abandon a nuclear arsenal constructed in the face of deep poverty and likely seen by Kim as his only guarantee of regime survival. The trip comes as Chinese and USA officials held a second day of trade talks and as Kim prepares for a second possible meeting with President Donald Trump.

Tuesday also happens to be the reclusive North Korean leader's birthday.

The US president said last week he had received a "great letter" from the North Korean leader but declined to reveal its contents. North Korea insists that Washington first build trust by lifting the sanctions imposed on that country. However, Xi has called on the sides to "meet each other halfway", and China's foreign minister in September urged some form of sanctions relief in response to any positive outcomes from the first Kim-Trump summit. When asked whether North Korean officials would meet with US officials during their visit, he said the delegations were at different levels.

Experts say this trip to Beijing, Pyongyang's sole major ally and its top economic lifeline as it continues to fend off crippling sanctions over its nuclear weapons and missile programs, will give the Chinese and North Korean sides a fresh chance to coordinate strategy ahead of the planned second Trump summit.

"It certainly has hurt the Chinese economy", Ross told CNBC, adding that China exports many more goods to the U.S. than the other way around.

"As to whether this is used as a bargaining chip by China in trade talks, I believe more Americans would think so than Chinese do", the tweet went on to say.