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(LEAD) N. Korean leader Kim visits agriculture, infrastructure facilities in Beijing

All Headlines 17:08 June 20, 2018

(ATTN: UPDATES with Kim's visit to infrastructure firm in paras 5-8; CHANGES headline)

BEIJING, June 20 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un began the second day of his trip to China on Wednesday by touring a farming science center in Beijing amid signs his regime is showing growing interest in agricultural reform, according to sources.

Earlier in the day, two VIP sedans and other vehicles presumed to be carrying Kim and his delegation were seen leaving the Diaoyutai state guest house for foreign dignitaries. A motorcade was later spotted entering the research center.

"It appears that Kim and his delegation visited the farming science center," a source said. "This might reflect the North's increasing interest in farming reform."

It is said to be the same facility that a group of North Korean officials led by Pak Thae-song, vice chairman of its Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, had toured during their trip to China in May.

Kim also appears to have toured the Beijing Infrastructure Investment Co. Ltd in the afternoon, a move probably related to his push for partnerships in the infrastructure construction sector, including the envisioned Trans-China Railway (TCR).

The TCR program is designed to link Seoul and Beijing by train through the North's cities of Pyongyang and Shinuiju.

It's a potential major inter-Korean project in the event that the two sides sign a peace treaty some day.

"Chairman Kim's visit to the company can be seen as part of preparations for large-scale joint economic projects in the event that sanctions against North Korea are eased," another source said. "There will be many things to discuss between North Korea and China, especially in connection with the construction of roads and railways."

According to North Korean media, Pak and North Korean Prime Minister Pak Pong-ju, known for their expertise on science and the economy, are among the officials accompanying Kim.

Kim is on the final day of a two-day visit to China that started on Tuesday, when he held his third summit meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in three months. Kim made a trip to Beijing in May, which was followed by another trip in May to the northern Chinese city of Dalian.

The North has placed more emphasis on bolstering its fragile economy in a departure from Kim's signature "byongjin" policy of seeking both nuclear and economic development, which was adopted at the WPK's meeting in March 2013.

Kim's latest trip to China comes a week after Kim held a historic summit meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore, in which he affirmed his commitment to denuclearization in return for security guarantees and "new" bilateral relations between Pyongyang and Washington.

It is seen as an attempt to consolidate its ties with its longtime ally before launching high-level talks to discuss how to get rid of its nuclear weapons. Some say that it might be intended to enlist support for easing economic sanctions imposed on its regime.

On the Kim-Xi summit, the North's Korean Central News Agency earlier reported that Xi expressed strong support for denuclearization efforts and promised to continue to play a "constructive role" in the process.

It did not provide detailed information on Kim's itinerary in China.
(END)

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