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Kim Jong-un, Xi Jinping talk strategy ahead of potential summit with Donald Trump

January 8, 2019

Chinese President Xi Jinping hosted North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Beijing Tuesday for a discussion on ways the two might better coordinate their strategies ahead of a possible second summit between Mr. Kim and President Trump.

The meeting, occurring just days after Mr. Kim threatened to back away from denuclearization talks with the U.S. if Washington doesn’t ease sanctions on Pyongyang, lasted roughly an hour in the Chinese capital, according to regional reports.

Mr. Kim is said to have been joined by a cadre of senior party and military officials, including Kim Yong-chol, Pyongyang’s top nuclear negotiator with the U.S., along with North Korean foreign and defense ministers Ri Yong-ho and No Kwang-chol.

Sources told South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency that Mr. Kim and Mr. Ri are believed to have also attended a dinner hosted Tuesday by Mr. Xi and his wife at the Great Hall of the People.

Mr. Kim has held four summits over the past year with the president of China, North Korea’s closest geopolitical ally and trading partner. Tuesday’s developments unfolded with almost no advance notice from Beijing or Pyongyang and came after Mr. Kim backed away from what would have been a precedent-breaking trip to the South Korea capital of Seoul.

The North Korean leader has held meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in over the past year. He also partook in a historic first summit last June with Mr. Trump in Singapore. But, while Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim pledged broadly to work toward denuclearization, negotiations have largely stalled during the months since.

Some analysts said the North Korean leader is seeking, ahead of a potential second summit with Mr. Trump, to show he has powerful allies to rely on if talks between Pyongyang and the U.S. fail.

“Kim is eager to remind the Trump administration that he does have diplomatic and economic options besides what Washington and Seoul can offer,” Harry J. Kazianis, director of Defence Studies at the U.S.-based Centre for the National Interest, said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

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