Kim Jong-un returns once again to China following Trump summit

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While opinions about the success of that summit for the U.S. and North Korea remain divided, most agree that China ended up as the real victor in Singapore with Trump announcing the suspension of joint military drills with South Korea, calling the exercises "provocative", and even alluding to pulling United States troops out of the Korean Peninsula.

Besides being the U.S.'s largest trading partner, China is arguably the most important player in Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign to force Kim to give up his nuclear arsenal.

Kim "felt thanks for and highly praised China's promotion of denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and its important role in protecting the peninsula's peace and stability", state broadcaster CCTV said.

Japan's Nikkei reported earlier on Tuesday that Kim could visit China as early as Tuesday.

In a news conference following the summit, Trump said North Korea had agreed to return the remains of USA soldiers.

A Kim trip to China to discuss his summit with Trump had been widely anticipated in diplomatic circles. Trump made a huge concession - the suspension of military exercises with South Korea.

On Tuesday, the US and South Korean militaries confirmed they have called off scheduled joint exercises following Trump's order.

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In addition to discussing last week's summit, Kim is expected to ask China for help in easing economic sanctions, in return for his pledge to denuclearise, according to Wang Dong, an global relations expert at Peking University.

Also, Pompeo dropped heavy hints in July 2017, right after North Korea began testing missiles that could hit the U.S., that he'd like to separate Kim from power.

The outing comes as China has sought to strengthen its role as a mediator between the U.S. and North Korea, where Beijing claims compelling security and economic interests.

"I think that North Korea can be another card Beijing can play to win leverage in negotiations with Washington", Yang Moo-jin, professor at Seoul's University of North Korean Studies, told AFP.

Wang Dong, an global relations expert at Peking University, said he expected Kim to ask China for help in easing the sanctions in return for his pledge to denuclearise.

"The Chinese side will be very cautious in using the DPRK issue as a bargaining chip", said Chucheng Feng, co-founder of GRisk, a political risk analytics firm, referring to North Korea.

China may not have been at the table for the historic summit in Singapore but it retains strong influence behind the scenes, Dong said.

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Tuesday's visit shows that "China is indispensable to the entire Korean nuclear issue", he said. But critics said the stock phrase long used by Pyongyang stopped short of longstanding United States demands for North Korea to give up its atomic arsenal in a "verifiable" and "irreversible" way. In recent months, the Pentagon has branded China a "strategic competitor" and the administration has demanded that Xi roll back his "Made-in-China 2025" program to dominate advanced industries such as semiconductors to aerospace development. Pompeo would go on to make security assurances to North Korea and wave before them the prospect of U.S. investment in exchange for denuclearizing, which has yet to materialize.

"We hope Chairman Kim Jong Un's visit will contribute to that".

"The negotiations with the Americans going forward will be hard".

How could this have happened despite the best efforts of some very talented American diplomats and officials who were quite aware of the risks the USA faced?

But Washington had previously rebuffed the proposal.

Kim immediately challenged Pompeo, Vanity Fair's Abigail Tracey reported a source close to Pompeo as telling her.

Previous trips had been kept secret until Kim returned home.

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