North Korea’s Kim Jong Un arrives in Beijing for talks just days after ‘alternative path’ speech

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived in China Tuesday to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, just days after ushering in the new year with a warning that his country may take an alternative path should the United States not ease economic sanctions, Reuters reported.

The planned four-day visit, which is the fourth summit in a year between Kim and Xi, was confirmed by North Korean and Chinese state media. The Kim-Xi meeting comes ahead of a likely second summit with President Donald Trump, after the two leaders met in June to discuss denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.

Last year marked unprecedented progress in denuclearization talks, with Kim holding summits with Trump, Xi, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. But despite a cooling of relations last year with China over the imposition of sanctions, China has and remains its most important economic and diplomatic ally.

Harry J. Kazianis, Director of Defense Studies at U.S. based Center for the National Interest, said Kim’s overtures to China suggest he “is eager to remind the Trump administration that he does have diplomatic and economic options besides what Washington and Seoul can offer,” adding that his New Year’s Day speech may suggest a “veiled threat to move closer to Beijing.”

The Kim-Xi meeting coincides with talks this week between a U.S. delegation and Beijing to de-escalate the ongoing trade war between China and the U.S.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CNBC on Monday that he did not think the trade dispute with Beijing would affect China’s efforts at resolving the North Korean crisis.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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