24 February 2019
A car believed to be carrying North Korean leader Kim Jong-un enters the Diaoyutai State Guest House in Beijing on Tuesday. Photo: Kyodo via Reuters
A car believed to be carrying North Korean leader Kim Jong-un enters the Diaoyutai State Guest House in Beijing on Tuesday. Photo: Kyodo via Reuters

North Korea’s Kim visits Beijing; Seoul, US halt military drill

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un arrived in Beijing on Tuesday, where he was likely to brief Chinese President Xi Jinping on his summit with US President Donald Trump last week, as Washington and Seoul agreed to suspend a major joint military exercise, Reuters reports.

This is Kim’s third trip to China this year, coming a week after he met Trump in Singapore for historic talks.

Trump agreed to work with Kim toward complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, committed to provide the North with security guarantees and pledged to end “war games” with South Korea, which North Korea and China have long seen as provocative.

South Korea and the Pentagon announced they would halt the annual Freedom Guardian military drill scheduled for August.

In an unusual move, Chinese state media announced Kim’s visit and said he would stay for two days. Previously China would only confirm Kim had visited after he had left the country.

“We hope this visit can help to further deepen China-North Korea relations, strengthen strategic communication between both countries on important issues and promote regional peace and stability,” China’s foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular briefing. He did not elaborate.

A Kim trip to China to discuss his summit with Trump had been widely anticipated in diplomatic circles. China is North Korea’s most important diplomatic and economic backer but has been angered by its nuclear and missile tests.

Police tightened security along Beijing’s main Changan Avenue, which leads to the Great Hall of the People where Chinese leaders usually meet visiting heads of state, and also outside the Diaoyutai State Guest House, where Kim stayed with his wife during a visit in March.

Outside the east gate of the Great Hall, where foreign leaders are officially welcomed, authorities had erected a screen running the full length of the road, cutting off the view.

South Korea’s foreign ministry spokesman said South Korea and China shared the strategic goal of completely denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.

“Our government hopes China will play a constructive role in resolving this problem,” ministry spokesman Noh Kyu-deok told a regular briefing.

“We hope Chairman Kim Jong Un’s visit will contribute to that.”

China has welcomed the warming of ties between the United States and North Korea, and offered to help.

China has been particularly pleased by Trump’s decision to suspend military drills with South Korea.

China has long proposed a “dual suspension”, whereby North Korea stops weapons tests and the US and South Korea stop military drills, to encourage talks.

“South Korea and the United States have agreed to suspend all planning activities regarding the Freedom Guardian military drill scheduled for August,” South Korea’s defense ministry said in a statement.

The Pentagon confirmed the suspension, adding in a statement there would be a meeting of the secretaries of defense and state as well as Trump’s national security adviser on the issue this week.

Chinese spokesman Geng welcomed the announcement as a “positive, constructive” move.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said there would be no changes to joint drill plans between the US and Japan, both of which regularly practice to deter North Korea.

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