Xi Fetes Kim Jong-un with Lavish Birthday Banquet

A vehicle that is part of a motorcade believed to be carrying North Korean leader Kim Jong Un makes its way through central Beijing

Kim reportedly met Chinese President Xi Jinping during his trip, which may have been a precursor to a second summit between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump.

China also wants the sanctions relaxed and Xi said it "hopes that the DPRK and the United States will meet each other halfway" according to China's state news agency Xinhua, using the initials of the North's official name.

Kim said during his China visit this week that there is no change in North Korea's stance to faithfully carry out the agreement reached with US President Donald Trump during their Singapore summit, and pursue a peaceful resolution through discussion, KCNA said.

Beijing is intent on keeping Pyongyang within its sphere of influence - the North acts as a buffer state, keeping the 28,500 USA troops in South Korea far from China's borders. "Judging from the delegation lineup, the mission appears to place emphasis on North Korea's continuing diplomatic outreach and nuclear and security issues", Aoki said.

Little progress has been made between the USA and North Korea since the celebrated Singapore summit last June, the very first meeting between a North Korean leader and a sitting U.S. president. The visit is seen as China's intention to show the U.S.it can use North Korea as leverage in the trade negotiations.

Kim spent a little more than a day in the Chinese capital and was en route to Pyongyang by 2 p.m. Wednesday local time, Yonhap News Agency of South Korea reported, citing unidentified officials.

Xi re-asserted China's importance in the diplomatic process surrounding the Korean peninsula, Xinhua said, quoting him as saying that Beijing stands ready to "play a positive and constructive role in maintaining peace and stability and realizing denuclearization on the peninsula and lasting peace and stability in the region".

But he's also made the return of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea a key political issue at home.

Kim's Beijing visit was seen as part of an effort to win Chinese support for a reduction of United Nations sanctions imposed over his nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, which have severely impacted his country's already ailing economy.

Trump earlier said that the United States and North Korea are in talks over where to hold their second summit and a decision on the venue will be announced in the "not-too-distant future".

Pyongyang has a long history of playing major powers off against each other, with Kim's predecessor and grandfather Kim Il Sung adept at winning backing from the then Communist rivals Beijing and Moscow in turn.

State media outlets in China and North Korea, in an unusual move, announced Kim's trip in advance, as a train carrying the North Korean leader and his entourage of senior officials crossed into China.

This position is being supported by China.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan pose for photos with NK leader Kim Jong-un and his wife Ri Sol-ju in Beijing on Wednesday.

In his New Year's address, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un offered to restart those stalled projects without preconditions.

While no details were released about an agenda in China, Kim has been seeking relief from sanctions, a peace declaration to formally end the 1950-1953 Korean War and more investment.

But Hua said Kim's visit would have a "limited" effect on the trade negotiations.

Washington asserts Kim accepted the "final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea", while Pyongyang says the deal implied a step-by-step approach where its actions were simultaneously met by US responses.

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