North Korea's Kim Jong-un visits China's Xi Jinping


Kim agreed to travel to Seoul for the first time as a North Korean leader "at an early date" during his summit meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in September.

Kim travelled to China, his most important ally, three times to meet with Xi a year ago before and after summits with U.S. President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

US President Donald Trump on Sunday said he has been in indirect contact with Kim Jong-un and his talks with the North Korean leader have averted a major war in Asia.

"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 US -based Centre for the National Interest said in an e-mailed statement.

Washington is pressing the North to offer up a detailed accounting of its nuclear arsenal, while Pyongyang says it has already done enough and it's time for the ease harsh worldwide sanctions that hold back the North Korean economy.

The train crossed the border around 10.15pm local time and was expected in the Chinese capital Tuesday morning, the Southern news agency reported, citing an informed source.

South Korea's foreign ministry said it was aware of Kim's planned visit and hopes Kim's latest visit and summit with Mr. Xi would contribute to the shared "strategic goal" of achieving complete denuclearisation and lasting peace on the Korean peninsula. Trump said his administration has a "very good dialogue" with Pyongyang, adding: "Now I say this, North Korea, we're doing very well".

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Tuesday also marks Kim Jong Un's supposed birthday, which North Korean officials have never confirmed or publicly acknowledged.

In his annual New Year's speech last week, Mr Kim said he was committed to denuclearisation, but warned that he would change course if United States sanctions remained.

Neither KCNA nor Xinhua provided further information on Kim's itinerary, though South Korea's Hankyoreh newspaper said on Monday that he will meet with China's Xi for a fourth summit. The issue could be discussed during his trip to China this week, observers said.

"Like in the decades before the collapse of the Soviet Union, supporting smaller allies could again become a matter of principle for the Big Powers even if these allies step out of line occasionally", he wrote. Three times he visited China, which is North Korea's most important trading partner and a key buffer against pressure from Washington.

Thus, Kim's threat may not be a hint at more nuclear tests, "but rather as a message to Donald Trump: You are not our only option for security and economic development".

North Korea's coal production rose from 2013 to 2016, but fell 30 percent to 21.66 million tonnes in 2017 from 2016, according to South Korean government data.