Kim Jong-un arrives in China on his birthday to meet President Xi

Kim Jong-un arrives in China on his birthday to meet President Xi

Kim Jong-un arrived in Beijing on Tuesday to hold talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping ahead of a summit with Donald Trump which is anticipated some t

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Kim Jong-un arrived in Beijing on Tuesday to hold talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping ahead of a summit with Donald Trump which is anticipated some time early this year.

Kim was ferried across the border in an armoured train before being met at Beijing’s north station by a motorcade, which took him to meet with Xi. 

The pair, who have met on three previous occasions, will likely discuss strategy after North Korean and US officials met in Vietnam while scouting out possible locations for a second summit between Trump and Kim.

Kim is also keen to play up his links to China after threatening that North Korea could chose an ‘alternative path’ to diplomatic ties with America, should negotiations over the country’s nuclear arsenal fail. 

Kim Jong-un arrived in Beijing by train on Tuesday for a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss strategy ahead of fresh talks with Trump

Kim Jong-un arrived in Beijing by train on Tuesday for a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss strategy ahead of fresh talks with Trump

Kim Jong-un arrived in Beijing by train on Tuesday for a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss strategy ahead of fresh talks with Trump

Kim was taken across the border on an armoured train before being met at Beijing's north station by a motorcade which whisked him away to meet Xi

Kim was taken across the border on an armoured train before being met at Beijing's north station by a motorcade which whisked him away to meet Xi

Kim was taken across the border on an armoured train before being met at Beijing’s north station by a motorcade which whisked him away to meet Xi

Heavy security lined the railway tracks and surrounded the station as Kim - who is known to be paranoid about assassination - arrived in the country

Heavy security lined the railway tracks and surrounded the station as Kim - who is known to be paranoid about assassination - arrived in the country

Heavy security lined the railway tracks and surrounded the station as Kim – who is known to be paranoid about assassination – arrived in the country

A limousine carrying the North Korean leader is seen driving through Beijing on Tuesday morning, which also happens to be Kim's birthday

A limousine carrying the North Korean leader is seen driving through Beijing on Tuesday morning, which also happens to be Kim's birthday

A limousine carrying the North Korean leader is seen driving through Beijing on Tuesday morning, which also happens to be Kim’s birthday

Kim is due to remain in China for four days, with both sides taking the unusual step of announcing the visit ahead of time. 

North Korea usually does not announce that Kim is out of the country until the visit is over to reduce the possibility of a coup back home. 

Another summit between Kim and Trump would herald a remarkable improvement in relations between the two old foes, though many differences remains.

No American President had ever met a North Korean leader until Trump and Kim sat down for talks in Singapore last year and struck up a close personal rapport.

But despite Trump’s insistence that the North Koreans were willing to give up their nuclear arsenal, little real progress has been made on disarmament.

North Korea has decommissioned its main nuclear testing site at Punggye-ri – amid reports that it had partially collapsed following a powerful explosion – and stopped ballistic missile tests.

Pyongyang is now demanding a partial reprieve from international sanctions which have crippled its economy, but officials in Washington say there will be no reward until all of its nukes have been dismantled. 

Kim was accompanied on the visit by wife Ri Sol-ju, pictured here leaving Pyongyang

Kim was accompanied on the visit by wife Ri Sol-ju, pictured here leaving Pyongyang

Kim was accompanied on the visit by wife Ri Sol-ju, pictured here leaving Pyongyang

Kim uses an armoured train to travel between his home country and China, which is the same used by his father during his diplomatic visits

Kim uses an armoured train to travel between his home country and China, which is the same used by his father during his diplomatic visits

Kim uses an armoured train to travel between his home country and China, which is the same used by his father during his diplomatic visits

Police officers and police dogs sniff parked vehicles outside Beijing's north station ahead of the arrival of Kim Jong-un

Police officers and police dogs sniff parked vehicles outside Beijing's north station ahead of the arrival of Kim Jong-un

Police officers and police dogs sniff parked vehicles outside Beijing’s north station ahead of the arrival of Kim Jong-un

A paramilitary police officer stands guard outside the Beijing Railway Station

A paramilitary police officer stands guard outside the Beijing Railway Station

A paramilitary police officer stands guard outside the Beijing Railway Station

In his New Year’s address, Kim said that if Washington persisted with its approach, ‘we may be compelled to find a new way for defending the sovereignty of the country and the supreme interests of the state’.

With his visit to China, ‘Kim is eager to remind the Trump administration that he does have diplomatic and economic options besides what Washington and Seoul can offer,’ said Harry Kazianis of the Center for the National Interest in Washington.

The US should be ‘quite concerned’ by any effort by Pyongyang to strengthen ties with Beijing, he added. 

The trip signals the latest warming of ties between North Korea and China after a dramatic deterioration in relations which led many observers to speculate that their old alliance was all-but over.

China is virtually North Korea’s only international ally, accounts for roughly 90 per cent of its trade, and provides a powerful deterrent to US intervention in the region. 

Tuesday also marks the North Korean leader’s birthday, though it is unclear if China has planned any celebrations for him.

Trump has pushed heavily for Chinese support in convincing North Korea to give up its weapons programs, suggesting that could win Beijing better terms in a trade deal with Washington.

Kim is keen to play up his ties with Beijing after threatening during his New Year message that he could take an 'alternative path' to forging diplomatic links with America

Kim is keen to play up his ties with Beijing after threatening during his New Year message that he could take an 'alternative path' to forging diplomatic links with America

Kim is keen to play up his ties with Beijing after threatening during his New Year message that he could take an ‘alternative path’ to forging diplomatic links with America

North Korea and China took the unusual step of advertising the trip ahead of time - both sides typically report the visit only when it has finished, to avoid causing a coup in North Korea

North Korea and China took the unusual step of advertising the trip ahead of time - both sides typically report the visit only when it has finished, to avoid causing a coup in North Korea

North Korea and China took the unusual step of advertising the trip ahead of time – both sides typically report the visit only when it has finished, to avoid causing a coup in North Korea

A motorcycle escort prepares to lead a convoy containing North Korea's Kim Jong-un

A motorcycle escort prepares to lead a convoy containing North Korea's Kim Jong-un

A motorcycle escort prepares to lead a convoy containing North Korea’s Kim Jong-un

Chinese People's Liberation Army soldiers and police stand guard in front of the railway station

Chinese People's Liberation Army soldiers and police stand guard in front of the railway station

Chinese People’s Liberation Army soldiers and police stand guard in front of the railway station

Kim’s arrival in Beijing coincides with U.S.-China trade talks in Beijing that seek to end the trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies ahead of a March deadline.

Asked whether China was linking to issues in an interview Monday with CNBC, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: ‘The Chinese have been very clear to us that these are separate issues.’

‘Their behavior has demonstrated that as well and we appreciate that. China has actually been a good partner in our efforts to reduce the risk to the world from North Korea’s nuclear capability. I expect they will continue to do so.’

Chinese forces played an integral role defending the North during the 1950-53 Korean War, and Beijing remains Pyongyang’s key diplomatic backer and trade partner.

It has always feared the collapse of its neighbour, which would threaten floods of refugees streaming onto its territory and the prospect of US troops stationed on its border in a unified Korea, but in recent years became increasingly frustrated with its nuclear antics.

That changed last spring, when Kim ended six years as a diplomatic recluse to go to Beijing and pay his respects to Xi in his first overseas trip as leader.

A series of visits have followed in both directions – although Xi has yet to reciprocate with a trip to Pyongyang – along with three summits between Kim and the South’s President Moon Jae-in, and Beijing lent Kim a plane to travel to Singapore.

Keeping it in the family: Armoured train used by North Korea’s leaders 

The olive green North Korean train, emblazoned with a yellow stripe, trundling towards Beijing station Tuesday was the first sign leader Kim Jong Un and his entourage had arrived in the Chinese capital.

The engine and carriages appear similar, possibly identical, to the train Kim used in March 2018 to travel to Beijing for his first overseas visit.

Unlike that occasion, when the North’s state media waited until his return to announce his journey, the official KCNA news agency said Tuesday that he was travelling on board his ‘private train’.

Kim’s father and predecessor Kim Jong Il, who is said to have had a fear of flying, stuck to the rails for his own foreign travels, using high-security trains for his seven visits to China and three to Russia over his 1994-2011 term.

According to the official North Korean account, Kim Jong Il was on a train for a ‘field guidance’ visit in 2011 when he died of a heart attack.

The Kims reportedly have several almost identical special trains, made by a factory in Pyongyang.

They are typically composed of two engines and 17 to 21 cars, travel at no more than 60 kilometres (38 miles) per hour, and are said to carry armoured vehicles and small helicopters for emergencies.

The carriages used by Kim Jong Il – a Macintosh computer on his desk – and his own father and predecessor, the North’s founder Kim Il Sung, are now on display at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang, where both late leaders’ bodies lie in state.

But the current North Korean leader shows no sign of an aversion to taking to the air.

Kim flew to Dalian in May and Beijing in June for his second and third meetings with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, and to Singapore – on board a borrowed Chinese airliner – for his June summit with US President Donald Trump.

He is also known to travel by air domestically, and was even seen at the controls of an aircraft in video footage released by state media in 2014.

‘Our dear Supreme Leader always says it is his profound wish to fly with his soldiers,’ the announcer says.

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