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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Jan. 9)

All News 07:08 January 09, 2019

Kim's fourth visit to China
NK leader in Beijing before possible summit with Trump

Another U.S.-North Korea summit appears to be imminent. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is in China again to seek the counsel of Chinese President Xi Jinping, whom he met several times last year to share strategies before and after his first summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Media outlets in China and North Korea reported Kim would be visiting China from Monday through Thursday at Xi's invitation. Kim made his first visit to China last March and returned in May before the historic U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore, June 12. He visited China later that month a third time after the summit with Trump.

As with the previous visits, Kim is accompanied by his wife Ri Sol-ju in an apparent move to establish an image of a normal country as his summit diplomacy gains more international attention.

The two leaders are expected to discuss bilateral issues and strengthening cooperation, particularly as the two countries are celebrating the 70th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations.

Although Cheong Wa Dae did not comment on when it learned of Kim's visit, it said South Korea had communicated closely with China and North Korea about it. "We hope their exchange will contribute to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and in particular provide impetus for a second U.S.-North Korea summit," presidential spokesperson Kim Eui-kyeom said Tuesday.

Seoul is paying keen attention to what kind of impact Kim's fourth visit to China will have on the ongoing denuclearization talks between the U.S. and North Korea.

Kim's meeting with the Chinese leader comes amid rising concerns about the prolonged deadlock in denuclearization negotiations.

During his New Year speech last week, Kim highlighted his willingness to sit down with the U.S. leader again. President Trump has shown an eagerness to meet Kim, saying on Twitter, "I also look forward to meeting with Chairman Kim who realizes so well that North Korea possesses great economic potential!" But the two countries are still wide apart on how to achieve denuclearization, which makes it highly doubtful that a second Trump-Kim summit will be useful in bringing noticeable progress in North Korea's denuclearization.

It should be noted that Kim threatened to take a new course to protect the North's sovereignty if the U.S. continues to pressure his country with sanctions. Even though the U.S. is reportedly looking for locations for the second Trump-Kim summit, Trump reiterated recently that the sanctions would remain.

On top of this, the defection of Jo Song-gil, who was a deputy head of mission at the North Korean Embassy in Italy, has also emerged as a complication in the Trump-Kim summit as the former diplomat is reportedly seeking asylum in the U.S.

At a critical juncture on the peninsula, the Xi-Kim summit should produce fruitful outcomes in advancing denuclearization talks.

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