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Critics also oppose the president's decision to end major joint military exercises without getting any major concession in return from North Korea.

A trade war with the US could make it less attractive for China to use its influence over North Korea to help the USA achieve its objectives of denuclearization.

While details of the trip remain undisclosed, Kim is widely expected to discuss his recent meeting with US President Donald Trump and other outstanding issues, including sanctions against his regime. "This shows that China is moving toward a healthier and more normal direction in relations with North Korea", Cheng said.

North Korean diplomats talking to South Korean officials in the demilitarized border zone between the two countries reportedly offered to remove the North's long-range artillery guns, which have been a dagger pointed at Seoul's throat for decades.

"No matter the changes in the global and regional situation, China's party and government's resolute position on being dedicated to consolidating and developing Sino-North Korea relations will not change", the report cited Xi as saying. Kim could ask for a withdrawal of or a reduction in U.S. forces in South Korea - a longstanding goal in Pyongyang.

According to China's state-run China Central Television, Kim arrived in Beijing on a two-day official visit.

As the threat of US military action on North Korea subsides, China has less incentive to enforce existing sanctions on North Korea.

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-run CCTV said.

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Hwang also noted the low-key manner in which China inserted itself into the Kim-Trump summit - by lending Kim an airliner for his trip to Singapore. "[The trip] is about keeping Xi Jinping in the picture after the Singapore Summit", professor Steve Tsang, a political scientist and director of the SOAS China Institute, told Newsweek.

The Japanese publication Asian Nikkei Review reports that Kim Jong-Un is flying to Beijing on this trip, rather than using his special armored train.

Trump hailed this as a concession, but critics said the stock phrase long used by Pyongyang stopped short of longstanding USA demands for North Korea to give up its atomic arsenal in a "verifiable" and "irreversible" way.

"There may be differences ahead between the DPRK and the U.S. in regards to denuclearization, because the United States wants irreversible and verifiable denuclearization". Analysts said Beijing appeared to be trying to normalize such visits.

North Korean state media said in a report the day after the June 12 summit that Trump had agreed to lift sanctions - a claim that contradicted comments from the president that the measures would "come off when we are sure that the nukes are no longer a factor". "It may be hard for Kim Jong Un to accept", Hua told AFP.

Beijing has long advocated a "dual suspension" or "freeze-for-freeze" approach - whereby North Korea halts its missile and nuclear testing and the USA and South Korea halt their joint military exercises - for the easing tension on the Korean Peninsula.

Beijing is particularly pleased by Mr Trump's announcement to suspend military drills.

Washington had previously rebuffed the proposal.


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