- Kevin Lim/The Strait Times/Handout/Getty Images
- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has made his third visit to China since March.
- Kim has landed in Beijing for a two-day visit. Cameras captured what appears to be a motorcade including the leader’s $1 million armored Mercedes.
- The fact that state media confirmed the North Korean leader’s trip marks a new era in which Kim Jong Un is treated as any other world leader.
- It also reiterates China’s role as a crucial ally of North Korea, which could be a crucial relationship to maintain as US President Donald Trump seeks denuclearization.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has touched down in Beijing, marking his third visit to China in as many months.
In a rare move, Chinese state media have already confirmed Kim is visiting from June 19 to 20. Kim’s arrival in Beijing, just one week after his summit with US President Donald Trump in Singapore, signifies the importance North Korea is placing on its close neighbor and historic ally.
- REUTERS/via Reuters TV
The North Korean leader touched down on Tuesday morning with reporters spotting Kim’s $1 million armored Mercedes at the airport before a motorcade entered Beijing’s streets.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also visited Beijing last week during which China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke of “the importance of China being a constructive participant in the next steps.”
Kim previously met with President Xi Jinping in Beijing and Dalian in March and May. The Beijing visit, Kim’s first overseas trip since taking power in 2011, was shrouded in secrecy and not confirmed until Kim’s bullet proof train had returned home.
While considered by some to be an insurance policy, ensuring North Korea had China’s support if the Trump summit fell through, the latest visit reiterates Xi’s desire to not be left out of any US-North Korea discussions.
The open announcement of Tuesday’s visit, however, marks a new era for Kim’s position as a world leader. By publicly sharing the details of Kim’s international trip, China has granted North Korea more legitimacy, furthering its desire to be treated like any other country.
Kim’s visit also reiterates the power China wields along the Korean Peninsula, having long been a communist ally of North Korea.
But Yun Sun, an expert on North Korea at the Stimson Center, told Business Insider that ahead of the Trump-Kim China was likely trying to make sure it could retain that power.
- KCNA via REUTERS
“The biggest concern of course is whether China [would] be excluded. But based on the loaning of Chinese plane, and the information available … it appears that North Korea has coordinated with positions with China,” Sun said.
Rather than use a North Korean plane to reach the Singapore summit, Kim used an Air China plane that was lent to him.
“Kim of course wants to strengthen his negotiation positions by having China on his side. To do that, he needs the Chinese to make such gestures. And the Chinese are probably pleased by it given their lack of other entry into the summit,” Sun said.
And it was China who was the first country to indicate the US would be ending military drills in South Korea, making the statement even before Trump, pointing towards close contact between North Korea and China leading up to and potentially even on the day of the summit.
Sun also said that when it comes down to ensuring economic sanctions stay in place, the US seems to want China, along with Japan and South Korea, to do the “heavy lifting.”
“I think China sees that as a way to enhance its leverage and position,” Sun said.
And already the enforcement of sanctions have begun to loosen. Along the Chinese border, Radio Free Asia reports officials are now only checking around half the vehicles that pass through, while a short time ago x-ray scans were being done on every vehicle.
Stability on the Korean Peninsula and thus along parts of its border, whether that includes denuclearization or not, is of high importance of high importance to China.
Yet as Trump tries to promote North Korea’s apparent commitment to denuclearization, he seems to be picking a fight with Kim’s biggest ally.
Hours earlier on Monday evening Trump threatened to escalate a trade fight with China into an all-out trade war with further tariffs on $200 billion worth of goods.