Kim Jong Un Visits China For The Third Time In Three Months

Ryan Pickrell | China/Asia Pacific Reporter

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is in China for a two-day trip, his third trip in three months, China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency revealed Tuesday.

Kim first met his Chinese counterpart President Xi Jinping in late March after secretly traveling to Beijing by train. This March visit, an effort to improve frayed relations between Beijing and Pyongyang, marked Kim’s first trip abroad since he took power a little over six years ago. In May, the North Korean leader flew to Dalian in Northeastern China for talks with Xi on the beach. Kim’s latest trip to China comes just one week after his historic summit with President Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12. (RELATED: President Trump And Kim Jong Un Meet For The First Time At Singapore Summit)

The North Korean leader was accompanied by his wife Ri Sol Ju.

While Kim’s first trip was a secret, one announced only as he was returning home, Tuesday’s visit was announced in shortly after his arrival, signaling that China and North Korea are becoming more confident in their relationship, which has at times been a challenge to U.S. interests in Northeast Asia.

After the North Korean leader’s second trip, talks between Washington and Pyongyang suddenly hit a roadblock and improving relations quickly turned sour, jeopardizing the Singapore summit. Trump suggested that he suspected China might be behind North Korea’s undesirable change in behavior. (RELATED: Is China Behind North Korea’s Sudden Change Of Tune? Trump Seems To Think So)

There are concerns that Kim’s latest sit down with Xi could complicate things for the U.S.

During their talks, Kim will presumably brief Xi on his summit with Trump. China is expected to push for an active and prominent role in discussions on the future of the Korean Peninsula while North Korea is likely to, in turn, call on China to relax sanctions.

In recent months, Kim has been expanding his circle of friends through an accelerated push for diplomatic engagement, but China remains North Korea’s most important international partner. China has long been North Korea’s greatest ally and benefactor, defending it from external threatens and helping the country skirt tough sanctions meant to punish the regime for its illegal weapons programs.

While China has proposed offering sanctions relief as a reward for North Korea’s commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, China’s foreign ministry is said to have assured the U.S. that it would maintain sanctions on North Korea until disarmament takes place. Beijing has made similar promises before only to fail to seriously uphold its commitments.

Critics of the Singapore summit claim that the U.S. walked away with nothing, pointing to a joint agreement with little substance. China, however, hailed the summit as a success, celebrating, in particular, the realization of the so-called freeze-for-freeze strategy for which Beijing has long advocated.

Responding to Kim’s decision to halt weapons testing and engage the U.S., Trump agreed to suspend indefinitely war games with South Korea as long as North Korea continues to negotiate in good faith. As China, like North Korea, considers these exercises provocative, the move was celebrated in both Beijing and Pyongyang. South Korea and the U.S. officially announced the cancelation of the their summer war games Monday. (RELATED: US, South Korea Suspend Summer War Games Amid Dialogue With North Korea)

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