https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/18/worl ... ottom-wellKim Jong-un Returns to China, This Time With Leverage
By Jane Perlez, June 18, 2018
BEIJING — North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, arrived in Beijing on Tuesday amid an escalating trade conflict between China and the United States, one that gives him an opening to play the powers against each other as Washington presses him to dismantle his nuclear arsenal.
“This could be regarded as an intuitive response to Trump’s escalation of the trade war,” Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing, said of China’s invitation to Mr. Kim.
The surprise trip, just a week after his landmark summit meeting in Singapore with President Trump, is the North Korean leader’s third visit to China since March. His two-day trip was announced by Xinhua, China’s official news agency, as Mr. Kim was arriving on Tuesday morning; his previous stops in China were not made public until after they were over.
For his first one, in March — which was also his first trip abroad, and his first meeting with a head of state, since becoming the North’s leader — Mr. Kim arrived in Beijing aboard an armored train, and he spent two days in the capital for talks with President Xi Jinping. In May, Mr. Kim visited the port city of Dalian, also spending time with Mr. Xi.
This time, Mr. Kim arrived much as any other foreign leader might, landing at Beijing’s international airport and taking a stretch limousine to the city center. Xinhua’s report gave no details of the agenda for Mr. Kim’s visit. But he was likely to deliver a personal briefing about what happened behind closed doors during three hours of talks with Mr. Trump last week, the first meeting ever between leaders of the United States and North Korea.
Andrei Lankov, a Russian expert on North Korea who has lived in the North and still has ties there, said Mr. Kim would be seeking to take advantage of the trade conflict between the United States and China, deepening their rivalry to ensure they do not join forces against him, as they did last year on the United Nations sanctions over his weapons program. “He wants to further disrupt the united China-U.S. front, which somewhat surprisingly emerged last year, but now is in critical condition due to the trade war,” Mr. Lankov said. Mr. Kim is turning out to be a “very good diplomat,” Mr. Lankov said. “Like his late grandfather, Kim Il-sung, he might even learn how to outsmart the Chinese. The Americans under Trump was an unbelievably easy job.”