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Kim, Xi portray strong ties after NKorea leader's China trip

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Kim Jong Un Meets With Chinese President Xi Jinping In Beijing

The White House said plans for a historic meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are proceeding, despite recent developments that cast doubt on the likelihood of its occurrence.

Kim had never met a foreign leader before, and the secrecy - a standard security measure during past North Korean state visits to China - allowed both countries to stage-manage any potential embarrassing errors.

Kim, who met with Chinese President Xi Jinpoing on Monday and "pledged denuclearization" according to Chinese sources, could be refraining from visiting Putin in Russian Federation.

North Korea's supreme leader Kim Jong Un.

On the talks, the state broadcaster said Kim and Xi exchanged views on bilateral ties and the Korean peninsula, with Kim saying his party and the government were determined to take the relationship to a "new stage" to meet the needs of the times.

"In the meantime, and unfortunately, maximum sanctions and pressure must be maintained at all cost!" he tweeted.

The Xi-Kim summit came as Beijing appeared increasingly wary of losing leverage over Pyongyang, with Seoul and Washington preparing for their summits with the reclusive state in April and May, respectively.

President Trump has shown admirable skill in preventing North Korea from gaining the upper hand against the US with aggressive test firings of its nuclear missiles combined with its soft diplomacy at the Winter Olympics. The Chinese envoy is also scheduled to meet President Moon Jae-in on Friday. But now, both leaders appear to have chose to set aside their differences. "Optimism is the last word I would use for this", said Sue Mi Terry, a former Central Intelligence Agency analyst and North Korea expert.

Where South Korea is cautiously optimistic about future talks with Pyongyang, Japan has raised questions about the Xi-Kim meeting. Beijing's support of United Nations sanctions against North Korea was a clear sign that Pyongyang had put a major burden on this traditionally close relationship. Though it was an "unofficial visit", the young dictator, who disregarded Xi and China on many occasions last year, was treated in the same manner as Trump during his "state visit-plus" last year.

News of the major breakthrough in tensions was met with concern in the USA, with reports that Mr Trump had made the decision without consulting key figures in his administration.

Kim also called for more meetings with Xi and other Chinese officials and asked Xi to visit North Korea at a time convenient for him, to which Xi "gladly accepted", KCNA said.

Trump may have anticipated some of these diplomatic dangers when he announced Thursday that he might delay negotiations over a trade deal with South Korea until after he reaches a nuclear agreement with North Korea.

"At least one of the things that Kim would want out of these meetings is a way forward to begin to ease those sanctions and support from China in that effort", said Glaser, the Asia expert.

Hayes said the risk that the North would use the light-water reactor for plutonium for weapons is low, given technical issues and the presence of an older reactor at the same Yongbyon site with far greater plutonium enrichment capabilities.

China's meeting with Kim only cemented the uncertainty looming around Kim-Trump meeting as Trump officials did not have any idea the meeting was taking place until when Kim was already in China.

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