January 09, 2019 5:47 AM
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is headed back home after a two-day visit to China and talks with President Xi Jinping.
Kim’s special train departed Beijing Wednesday afternoon and headed towards the northeast border, where it will enter North Korea early Thursday morning.
The visit was Kim Jong Un’s fourth to North Korea’s primary diplomatic and economic ally since last year, and raises speculation that Kim was coordinating with China ahead of a possible second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency says Kim spent his final day in Beijing visiting a pharmaceutical factory in an economic zone outside of Beijing, then had lunch with President Xi before departing.
Kim and Xi held talks Tuesday — believed to be Kim’s birthday — shortly after the North Korean leader arrived in Beijing. He later attended a dinner with Xi and his wife at the Great Hall of the People. Kim was accompanied by his wife Ri Sol Ju. Neither side has provided details on the talks, nor of Kim’s schedule during his visit.
Kim and President Trump signed a vague agreement during their historic summit in Singapore last June that calls on Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear program. But further negotiations have stalled over the North’s demand for front-loaded sanctions relief tied to small progress, and its opposition to the Trump administration’s call for complete denuclearization prior to granting any concessions.
During his annual New Year’s Day address last week, Kim said it was his “firm will” that North Korea will no longer produce or test nuclear weapons. He also said he would be willing to hold another face-to-face meeting with Trump, but warned his country may have to take another path unless Washington takes “corresponding measures.”
North Korea is also demanding that the United States and South Korea first issue a peace declaration to formally end hostilities and replace the armistice that has been in effect since the Korean War ended in 1953. Critics worry a peace declaration could undermine the justification for the U.S. military presence in South Korea.