North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived Tuesday in Beijing where he will spend two days, according to Chinese state media.
Xinhua announced his visit after reports of an Air Koryo flight, the North Korean state-run airline, was due to land in the Chinese capital. Kim’s previous travels to China were not announced or publicized until after he had left, and the visit had concluded. This is Kim’s second plane ride to China, according to NPR’s Anthony Kuhn. Previously Kim had also traveled to China via armored-train.
Kuhn reports that “North Korean leaders have in past always traveled to China in armored trains, and kept the visit secret until after it was over, apparently because they feared assassination attempts.”
This marks Kim’s third visit to China. During his first six years as leader, Kim did not travel outside of North Korea. Over the past few months, he has made a flurry of visits to other countries. Kim traveled to Beijing in late March, and to China’s northeastern city of Dalian in May. He became the first North Korean leader to visit South Korea since 1953 in April. Just one week ago, he traveled to Singapore to meet with President Trump, becoming the first North Korean leader to meet with a sitting U.S. president.
Kim’s meeting with Trump concluded with a joint statement agreeing to “build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula” and “to work toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” The agreement provided few details on how the U.S. and North Korea will achieve these goals.
Kim’s visit to China is taking place as tensions rise over a potential trade war between the U.S. and China. President Trump has threatened to impose additional tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports, and China’s government has said it will respond in kind.
North Korea and China are historic allies. China remains North Korea’s biggest trading partner, accounting for 90 percent of trade with North Korea.
As the threat of U.S. military action on North Korea subsides, China has less incentive to enforce existing sanctions on North Korea. President Trump’s recent indications that he hopes U.S. troops on the Korean Peninsula will return home “eventually,” is also likely good news for China.
On Monday, the Pentagon said in a statement that it has suspended all planning for this August’s defensive “wargame” in South Korea. The Chinese government has previously pushed for a “freeze for freeze” program, whereby North Korea stops its missile and nuclear testing in exchange for the U.S. and South Korea halting joint military exercises.