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(7th LD) N. Korean leader Kim holds summit with Xi

All Headlines 19:32 June 19, 2018

(ATTN: RECASTS throughout with beginning of summit at Great Hall of the People; CHANGES headline; TRIMS)

SEOUL/BEIJING, June 19 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, a source said Tuesday, in the latest sign of strengthening ties between the two leaders.

The summit appeared to have begun about 10 minutes after Kim arrived at the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square amid tight security, the source said. No details were immediately available.

The summit -- the third in three months -- came a week after Kim met with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore and affirmed his commitment to complete denuclearization in return for security guarantees and a new relationship with the United States.

Kim held talks with Xi in March and May.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said Kim's two-day visit that began Tuesday is intended to strengthen "strategic communication" between the two countries.

The announcement marked a clear departure from China's previous stance of keeping silent on Kim's visit until he returned home.

Kim's trip has long been shrouded in secrecy apparently for security reasons. North Korea's state media did not report on Kim's latest trip to China.

Analysts agree that Kim's visit to China is apparently intended to brief Xi on the outcome of his summit with Trump but added that he could enlist support from China ahead of talks on how fast it will have to give up its nuclear weapons program.

For China, it could be intended to strengthen its voice in the fast-paced nuclear diplomacy mostly being led by the U.S. and South Korea, they said.

"It appears that Kim intends to express his gratitude to China for providing support during his summit with Trump, such as offering a plane, while explaining the major agenda items discussed during the summit and pushing to take the initiative through consultations on the future situation," Shin Beom-chul, a senior fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, said.

Yoo Hyun-jung, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Strategy, said that Kim's third visit to Beijing must be meant to enlist support from China, especially in relaxing sanctions imposed on Pyongyang now that tensions are easing.

The U.S. has said that there will be no sanctions relief until Pyongyang's denuclearization. The North has claimed that Trump expressed his intention during the summit to lift sanctions "along with advances in improving the mutual relationship through dialogue and negotiation."

(7th LD) N. Korean leader Kim holds summit with Xi - 1


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