Kim visits China ahead of expected Trump meet

BEIJING -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived in Beijing on Tuesday on an unannounced visit for talks with President Xi Jinping, as preparations ramp up for an expected second summit with Donald Trump.

China is the isolated, nuclear-armed North’s key diplomatic ally and main source of trade and aid, and the visit is likely to heighten speculation about the potential meeting with the US president, as Kim could coordinate his strategy with Xi.

A motorcade was seen leaving a Beijing train station, with police blocking a street with metal gates hours after Kim’s train crossed the border into northern China, according to AFP journalists.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said the distinctive dark green train with a yellow stripe had entered the station at 10:55 am (0255 GMT).

The North Korean leader, accompanied by his wife Ri Sol Ju and several senior officials, set off from Pyongyang on his private train on Monday, the official Korean Central News Agency reported.

The trip is at Xi’s invitation and set to run until Thursday, according to KCNA and China’s official Xinhua news agency.

The visit 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.

“Both Xi and Kim see value in coordinating their positions in advance of Trump-Kim summits. That appears to be a pattern,” Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told AFP.

“Kim also seeks Beijing’s help in getting international sanctions eased.”

While China and Russia have said the United Nations should consider relaxing sanctions on North Korea, Trump insisted Sunday that they would remain “in full force and effect” until the US sees “very positive” results in the nuclear issue.