Kim Jong Un departs Beijing after meetings with Xi Jinping

Kim arrived in Beijing on Tuesday for his fourth visit to Pyongyang´s sole major diplomatic friend

Kim arrived in Beijing on Tuesday for his fourth visit to Pyongyang´s sole major diplomatic friend

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed an expected US-North Korea summit in talks in Beijing on Tuesday, Yonhap news agency said, days after Kim warned he may take an alternative path if the United States does not ease sanctions.

"China supports the DPRK's continued adherence to the direction of denuclearization on the peninsula, supports the continuous improvement of inter-Korean relations, supports the DPRK and the United States holding summits and achieving results, and supports relevant parties resolving their respective legitimate concerns through dialogue", Xi told Kim during their face-to-face meeting in Beijing, Xinhua reports.

The US is refraining from negative comments on Kim's trip because China has been tough on the enforcement of United Nations sanctions against North Korea and trade talks with Beijing are going smoothly, said Kim Hyun-wook, a professor at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy.

Analysts say China could use the North Korean issue as a bargaining chip in the negotiations, but Beijing's foreign ministry rejected any link between Kim's trip and the talks.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his sister Kim Yo-jong (red-dotted) wave aboard a train to Beijing on Monday. US President Donald Trump, who often comments on diplomatic issues and his accomplishments via Twitter, had not mentioned the summit between Kim and Xi as of Wednesday.

North Korea wants relief from the multiple sets of sanctions imposed on it over its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programs, while the USA wants them to remain in place until it gives up its arms - something Pyongyang has made no public promise to do.

China is the North's sole major ally, main diplomatic backer and a key trade partner, whose forces were instrumental in fighting for it during the 1950-53 Korean War. "If he wants to shift his focus to the development of the economy, he needs China's cooperation", said Lu Chao, a North Korea expert at China's Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences. Beyond confirming his presence in Beijing, no details have been provided by either North Korea or China on his schedule.

During his trip to Beijing, Xi hosted a dinner reception for Kim on Tuesday night, the 35th birthday of the North Korean leader.

Kim is accompanied by his wife Ri Sol Ju and leading officials, according to North Korean state news.

He also said China would be ready to play a "positive and constructive role" towards maintaining peace and achieving denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula, reported Xinhua.

Kim's visit also comes after he expressed frustration in his annual New Year's address over the lack of progress in negotiations with Washington since the Singapore summit with Trump in June, saying that if things don't improve - meaning that if sanctions relief and security guarantees aren't in the offing -Pyongyang might have to find "a new way" forward.

Relations between China and North Korea had deteriorated in recent years over Pyongyang's nuclear activities, but ties appear to have warmed, with Kim meeting Xi 3 times last year to pay his respects and keep him informed about developments.

Asked if China is seeking to use Kim's visit as leverage in trade negotiations with the USA, he added, "China's diplomacy incorporates rich and diverse contents".

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