North Korean leader back on track!

Thae Yong-ho who fled his post as North Korea's deputy ambassador to Britain in August 2016

Thae Yong-ho who fled his post as North Korea's deputy ambassador to Britain in August 2016

"The government expects high-level exchanges between the North and China, including a meeting between Chairman Kim Jong-un and President Xi Jinping, to contribute to the complete denuclearization and the establishment of permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula", a Foreign Ministry official said, adding that this was the government's official response.

The trip marked a further break with past practice in that it was announced in advance of Kim's arrival, a possible sign of growing confidence on the part of North Korea and its most important ally, China.

North Korea rarely reports such visits until they are over.

Mr Kim will be in China until 10 January with his wife Ri Sol-ju, according to state media reports.

The trip began under the usual veil of secrecy and Kim has not been spotted in public since a motorcade believed to be carrying the North Korean entourage left a Beijing train station under heavy security early on Tuesday.

The North Korean leader said in his New Year's address last week that he might take a "new path" in negotiations if Trump didn't relax the sanctions squeezing his economy.

Official North Korean calendars mark the day as a normal workday. "We're doing very well", he said.

Kim made his first secretive visit as leader to Beijing in March - also his first visit overseas, after antagonising the United States and north Asian neighbours with long-range missile and nuclear tests.

Since the Singapore summit, there is growing scepticism in the U.S. over Kim delivering on his promise to do away with the nuclear programme despite Washington's assurance over North Korea's security.

Instead, Mr Kim may be seeking to gauge China's attitude toward sanctions ahead of the talks, including what the North would have to concede in order to win Beijing's support at the UN.

Kim Jong Un as expressed frustration with the USA after his meetings with president Donald Trump.

On Tuesday, Chinese state media ran front-page stories heralding South Korea and North Korea's progress - a passenger train travelled from Seoul to North Korea on December 26, the first since the Korean War in 1953.

In 2015, a counsellor in charge of science affairs at the North's embassy in Germany defected with his wife to an unidentified country, while a secretary-level trade official stationed in Bulgaria and his wife also fled, Thae told South Korean cable news Channel A in an interview this week.

"Their behavior has demonstrated that as well and we appreciate that".

Ties between China and North Korea, which had frayed as Pyongyang stepped up its provocations through a series of missile and nuclear tests, warmed over the a year ago as Kim engaged with Beijing as well as Seoul and Washington. But his visit, scheduled to end Thursday, will allow plenty of time to consult with Xi and other senior Chinese leaders. Kim did not say whether the spy agency revealed any information about Jo's current whereabouts or whether the diplomat had plans to defect to South Korea.

Last year, Xi and Kim met three times in China by around the time of the first-ever US-North Korea summit on June 12 in Singapore.

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