Kim Jong Un's surprise visit to Beijing: Views from US, China, South Korea and Japan

An undated photo released by the North Korean Central News Agency shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his wife Ri Sol Ju (left) meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing.
An undated photo released by the North Korean Central News Agency shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his wife Ri Sol Ju (left) meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un travelled to Beijing to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on a surprise visit that began on Sunday (March 25) and ended on Wednesday (March 28). Here is what analysts are saying about the trip, which is Mr Kim's first outside the North since taking power in 2011.

View from Washington: Kim Jong Un now poised to extract concessions

The White House had a measured reaction to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's visit to Beijing and meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping, while preserving the notion that it was US President Donald Trump who provided the impetus for the diplomatic breakthrough.

"We see this development as further evidence that our campaign of maximum pressure is creating the appropriate atmosphere for dialogue with North Korea," White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said. A briefing for Mr Trump on the meeting included "a personal message from President Xi to President Trump", she added. No details were offered on the message.

It is in Mr Xi's interest to have a say in any US-North Korea agreement and US-based analysts see his meeting with Mr Kim as a sign of Beijing moving to preserve its relevance, and North Korea bringing China into consultations as a balance to the United States.

And it is also a sign of Mr Kim, at the helm of a nuclear power, taking to the diplomatic stage as an equal, well positioned to extract concessions ranging from the lifting of sanctions to, possibly, the withdrawal of US troops from the Korean peninsula - a strategic goal no doubt shared by China.

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View from Beijing: China anxious about being sidelined


China's President Xi Jinping (right) shaking hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Beijing on March 27, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's just-concluded visit to Beijing is both an indication that Pyongyang's fraught ties with its neighbour have improved and that Beijing is anxious about being marginalised in talks on the Korean peninsula nuclear issue, analysts said.

Xinhua news agency yesterday said Mr Kim visited Beijing from Sunday to yesterday, although wire agencies reported that his train was seen leaving Beijing station at 3pm on Tuesday. Xinhua also said Mr Kim met President Xi Jinping and other senior Chinese officials.

The two leaders' meeting comes ahead of Mr Kim's summit with South Korean President Moon Jae In next month and a possible one with US President Donald Trump in May.

"China feels a little nervous" about these summits and that "it might be left out and not be in control of the direction of developments on the Korean peninsula", said Mr Zhao Tong, a researcher with the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre for Global Policy in Beijing. This is why Mr Xi extended an invitation to Mr Kim to visit Beijing, he added.

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View from Seoul: North Korea eyes leverage from getting close to China


Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) at the closing session of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People and a file photo released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) taken on Dec 23, 2017. PHOTO: AFP 

North Korea's eagerness to mend ties with its long-time ally China could be aimed at gaining leverage ahead of two major summits with South Korea and the United States, analysts here say.

South Korea welcomed the surprise meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Beijing this week as positive, and said it hoped it would contribute to denuclearisation and peace-building on the Korean peninsula.

But as a senior South Korean government official noted separately, the North appears to be making some "fairly sophisticated moves" and sending the signal that it has China's backing ahead of summit talks with the US.

"An active role from China is unavoidable" to facilitate denuclearisation talks, and Beijing's stance towards Pyongyang "isn't much different from Seoul's strategy", the Hankyoreh newspaper said in an editorial.

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View from Tokyo: Japan fears being left out of upcoming talks


Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe continued to reiterate the need to keep up the pressure until North Korea achieves "complete, verifiable and irreversible" denuclearisation. PHOTO: AFP 

Japan fears it will be left behind in the rapid progress over North Korea, and that it will have no stake at the table to shape developments to come, analysts said.

This could have prompted Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's remarks yesterday, when he expressed worries that Japan's agenda would be left out in upcoming talks between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae In, and United States President Donald Trump.

According to the Associated Press, Mr Abe told Parliament his concerns that the talks might focus on long-range inter-continental ballistic missiles and a ban on nuclear tests, ignoring the short-and medium-range ballistic missiles that put Japan squarely within the crosshairs.

Speaking hours after China announced that Mr Kim visited Beijing earlier this week, Mr Abe also expressed concern that Mr Trump would neglect to raise, on Japan's behalf, Pyongyang's abduction of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s.

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