The surprise visit of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un came to an end when he departed on Wednesday from Beijing. The visit to China’s capital happened while Washington and Pyongyang are having negotiations about holding a second summit – which would follow the US-North Korea summit in Singapore in June 2018.
This was Kim’s fourth time visiting China since he became the leader of North Korea in 2011. During his stay, he visited a factory in a city famous for producing traditional Chinese medicine which followed lunch at the Beijing Hotel.
The visit came only a week after he delivered his annual speech which set out the goals of upgrading North Korea’s industry; especially the pharmaceutical industry. Kim’s factory tour also came a day after his 35th birthday which he celebrated during a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Since his arrival in Beijing, he met Xi several times, but details about what had been discussed have not been giving out.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang would not comment on details about the visit and solely said that both countries have talked about “joint efforts to uphold peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.”
Analysts assume that both sides have discussed ways of strengthening each other’s ties and that Kim Jong Un intended to convey a message to the United States saying that North Korea still has an economic and diplomatic ally beyond Washington.
“It’s pretty clear he’s not putting all his eggs in one US basket because he has a bigger goal in mind — achieving prosperity, achieving inter-Korean peace and reunification but on Pyongyang’s terms, and engaging diplomatically with like-minded countries to show the world that Kim loves and promotes peace more than Trump,” said Duyeon Kim, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for New American Security.
The visit comes just before high-level meetings between the US and China to further negotiate a halt to the ongoing trade war. Experts take the belief that Kim may see a window of opportunity if the relationship between China and the US continues to depreciate.
Kim is now on the way to the town of Dandong, located on the border between China and North Korea. He is expected to spend overall four days in China – arriving in China on Monday and leaving on Thursday.