North Korean leader Kim Jong-un arrived in China for a two-day visit on Tuesday, a week after his historic summit with Donald Trump.
The visit is his third to China since March and comes as Pyongyang seeks China’s help in easing hard-hitting sanctions which were rolled out last year in response to the regime’s build-up of nuclear weapons.
Kim is expected to brief Chinese president Xi Jinping on his discussions with Mr Trump, who announced last week that joint US-South Korea military would end – bolstering China’s position in the region.
China, meanwhile, will be seeking to use North Korea as a bargaining chip amid heightened trade tensions between Washington and Beijing, observers say.
"Trump has approved tariffs against China, so it is time for China to play the North Korea card to deal with America," said Deng Yuwen, an international relations expert and senior researcher at the Charhar institute in Beijing.
"If Kim does not want to abandon the nuclear arms completely, then China will be happy to act as a broker between Pyongyang and the US," he told The Telegraph.
Chinese state broadcaster CCTV announced the visit on Tuesday before several reports noted activity at Beijing International Airport which suggested a high-level visit was taking place.
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Kim’s first visit to China – and his first foreign trip as leader – came in March, when he arrived in Beijing in an armoured train from Pyongyang. He also met Mr Xi in the northern port city of Dalian in May.
Both previous visits were not announced by China’s tightly-controlled media until Kim had left China.
CCTV’s announcement ahead of his arrival on Tuesday morning suggested that Chinese and North Korean authorities were less nervous about the security of North Korea’s young leader.
China has broadly supported moves by the United States to denuclearise North Korea.
However, Beijing has become less keen to confront Pyongyang with harsh measures as the threat of military action from Mr Trump recedes.
News of Kim’s visit to Beijing came as South Korea and the Pentagon confirmed they would halt the annual Freedom Guardian military drill scheduled for August.
A statement from the South Korean defence ministry said the two sides “agreed to suspend all planning activities” relating to the exercises.
The move would please Chinese leaders and Kim, who has been on a global charm offensive in recent months, culminating in his ground-breaking meeting with Mr Trump in Singapore last week.
Additional reporting by Christine Wei
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