North Korea's Kim hails 'unity' with China in new visit

North Korea's Kim hails 'unity' with China in new visit
PHOTO: AFP

Kim Jong Un declared North Korea's unstinting "friendship, unity and co-operation" with Beijing during his third visit to China this year, in a show of loyalty to his main ally following a landmark summit with US President Donald Trump.

The two-day visit which ends Wednesday is designed to reassure Beijing that Pyongyang will not neglect its interests as Trump and the young autocrat move into uncharted diplomatic terrain.

The performance is part of a delicate balancing act for Kim, who analysts say is seeking to play US and Chinese interests off each other while maintaining good relations with Beijing, his economic patron and diplomatic protector.

China and the US both hope to see the Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons, but Beijing is concerned Washington and Pyongyang might move closer at its expense, a possibility that China sees as threatening to its economic and security interests in the region.

While China was not present at the June 12 summit in Singapore, it lent Kim a plane to travel to the city-state, a clear sign that it remains an influential force in the diplomatic shuffle.

When Trump met Kim: A Singapore story

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    Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un made history Tuesday, becoming the first sitting US and North Korean leaders to meet and shake hands, as they seek to end a tense decades-old nuclear stand-off.

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    It was a meeting many would have thought unimaginable just months ago.

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    The two men strode toward each other and shared the momentous handshake beneath the white-washed walls of an upscale hotel in neutral Singapore, before sitting down for a half-day of meetings with major ramifications for the world.

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    Prior to the meeting held at Capella Hotel in Singapore's resort island of Sentosa, Trump had said that he would know "within the first minute", whether any agreement would be possible.

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    The watching world is not sure if it's the start of a beautiful, budding "bromance", but here's a look at how the world's most talked-about first date unfolded.

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    Their handshake reportedly lasted for 12 long seconds (though still 7 seconds shorter than his memorable handshake with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe).

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    Trump also reached out to touch the North Korean leader on his right shoulder.

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    According to a body language expert Karen Leong, the first 60 seconds showed both leaders seeking to take charge in their encounter. US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un both sought to project a sense of command. "Their handshake seems to be between peers," she said.

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    "Trump seemed to be very aware of this, that he needed to up the stakes and be seen that he is the leader."

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    Trump did most of the talking, and Kim appeared to listen attentively, turning to him three times during their walk toward their meeting room.

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    Trump did most of the talking, and Kim appeared to listen attentively, turning to him three times during their walk toward their meeting room.

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    The US President, who is more than twice Kim's age, then appeared to lead the way to the library where they held a one-on-one meeting, placing his hand on the North Korean leader's counterpart's back.

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    Kim also patted the US president' arm, in an attempt to show control over the encounter, said Leong.

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    The leaders appeared to share a few light-hearted moments as they walked down a corridor to the hotel's library.

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    However, Leong said both found it difficult to conceal their nervousness once they were seated, with Trump displaying a slanted smile, and fidgeting with his hands and Kim leaning and staring at the ground.

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    As they sat down for their one-on-one meeting, the US leader predicted a "terrific relationship" with Kim.

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    Mr Kim then said through a translator: “The way to come to here was not easy.The old prejudices and practices worked as obstacles on our way forward but we overcame all of them and we are here today.”

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    After their closed door one-on-one talks, the pair continued with explanded bilateral talks with their delegation. Trump was flanked by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, chief of staff John Kelly and national security adviser John Bolton.

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    Sitting across the table from the US team were North Korean leader Kim, Kim Yong-chol, first vice department director of the ruling Workers’ Party’s central committee, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho and Ri Su-yong, Workers’ Party vice chairman on international affairs.

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    Thereafter, the two leaders attended a working lunch with their respective delegations at Capella Hotel.

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    On the lunch menu: Main courses include beef short rib confit, served with potato dauphinois and steamed broccoli; sweet and sour crispy pork and fried rice with an "XO" chilli sauce as well as a Korean dish called "daegu jorim", which is a soy braised cod fish with radish and Asian vegetables.

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    Post-lunch, Kim and Trump then went for a leisurely stroll around the hotel grounds.

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    He also said talks had gone "better than anybody could have expected", and indicated that they were heading for a "signing", but did not divulge any details of the agreement.

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    During their walk, Trump unexpectedly gave Kim a peek into his super limo, nicknamed "The Beast".

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    But they did not get to hop on to go for a joyride, as commentators had hoped.

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    The pair met to sign an agreement, details of which were not revealed during the signing. Trump said: "We're signing a very important document, pretty comprehensive document, and we've had a really great time together, a great relationship... More will be discussed at a press conference soon."

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    When asked what he learnt about Kim, Trump said that he is "a very talented man", and that "he loves his country very much".

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    Mr Trump also described Mr Kim as a "very worthy, very smart negotiator".

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    According to sources after the signing, the two leaders pledged to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, while Washington committed to provide security guarantees for its old enemy.

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    The signatures of US President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un. Trump said he expected the denuclearization process to start "very, very quickly".

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    Kim places a hand on Trump's back as they leave the room after the signing.

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    After the signing, the pair walked out for another round of photo-taking.

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    Reports say Mr Kim departed Singapore on a chartered Air China flight at 11.20pm and midnight on Tuesday, while Trump left on Air Force One earlier at 6.25pm.

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    At 4pm, Trump held a press conference on the summit outcome and details on the agreement signed.

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    "We signed a joint statement that is an unwavering commitment to complete denuclearisation of North Korea," he says.

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    The Capella Hotel on Singapore's resort island of Sentosa, provided the backdrop for the historic summit.

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    Trump's motorcade arriving at Sentosa on Tuesday (June 12) morning.

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    Setting the stage ready for the handshake that will be seen across the world.

The Cold War-era allies, which fought side-by-side against US-led UN forces and South Korea in the 1950-1953 Korean War, have sought to repair ties strained by Pyongyang's nuclear tests and Beijing's support of subsequent UN sanctions.

Kim chose Beijing for his first official foreign trip in March and met Xi again in April in the northeastern port city of Dalian.

Kim's agenda for Wednesday was not made public. An AFP journalist saw a motorcade leaving the Diaoyutai guest house for foreign dignitaries in Beijing, but it was unclear where it was headed.

During his meeting with Xi Tuesday, Kim thanked China for "positive and sincere support and good help for the successful" summit with Trump, according to North Korea's official KCNA news agency.

Photo: AFP

The North Korean leader, who was greeted by a military honour guard and cheering children at the Great Hall of the People Tuesday, said he valued the "recently strengthened strategic co-operation" between the two countries.

"He expressed the determination and will to further develop the closer relations of friendship, unity and co-operation between the two parties and the two peoples of the DPRK and China," KCNA said.

Kim also invoked the "prospect for the denuclearisation of the Korea Peninsula" following his meeting with Trump.

For his part, Xi told Kim that China "speaks highly" of his summit with Trump and he urged Washington and Pyongyang to implement their agreement struck in Singapore.

The Chinese leader vowed that Beijing would continue to play a "constructive role" in the nuclear diplomacy.

Trade card

The official media of both countries did not say whether Kim and Xi discussed the prospect of easing UN sanctions that have crippled North Korea's economy, though analysts said it could have been part of the agenda.

Shin Bum-cheol, a senior fellow at the Seoul-based Asan Institute for Policy Studies, said Kim and Xi were likely seeking "common ground" following the Singapore summit.

For China, North Korea can serve as "an important card" as Beijing faces a potential trade war with the United States," Shin told AFP.

Photo: AFP

"For the North, it can also show to the world, especially the US, that Beijing has Pyongyang's back if the North's ties with the US sour in the future," Shin said.

North Korean officials have also visited China recently to learn about its economic reforms -- yet another sign of Pyongyang's reliance on Beijing for its economic well-being.

"We are happy to see that the DPRK made a major decision to shift the focus to economic construction, and the development of the DPRK's socialist cause has entered a new stage in history," Xi told Kim, according to China's official Xinhua news agency.

China has backed United Nations sanctions against its ally but indicated last year that the UN Security Council could consider easing the punitive measures.

Photo: AFP
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