Kim Jong-un spends his birthday with Xi Jinping in Beijing

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USA and Chinese officials yesterday in Beijing held a second day of trade talks overshadowed by an unannounced visit by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Kim left Pyongyang Monday for a visit that is slated to end Thursday, North Korean and Chinese state media reported.

The North Korean leader is accompanied by his wife Ri Sol Ju, as well as senior officials including negotiator Kim Yong Chol and Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho. It's Kim's fourth visit to China in a year.

Kim's visit to North Korea's most important economic and diplomatic ally, which was first reported by South Korean media, follows reports of advanced negotiations for a second summit between Washington and Pyongyang aimed at resolving the standoff over North Korea's nuclear programme.

The length of the trip has raised speculation that denuclearisation may not be the only topic of discussion, and that Mr Kim may be seeking advice from...

The United States, meanwhile, is expected to carefully watch whether North Korea's negotiating strategy will change after Kim's four-day visit to China from Monday, amid speculation that the U.S. and North Korean leaders will meet again early this year.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Monday that China's economy was more vulnerable to the fallout from the trade war.

In late December, North Korea said that it would not relinquish its nuclear weapons until the United States eliminates its own "nuclear threat".

In his annual New Year address last week, Kim Jong Un said that he was "ready to sit with the US president again at any time in the future and will make efforts by all means that will produce a result that will be welcomed by the worldwide community". The year of his birth has always remained a mystery, as North Korea has never revealed it.

-China trade war with the North Korea issue, but told reporters Sunday, "We're doing very well with North Korea, and we're also doing very well with China on trade". "Kim is eager to remind the Trump administration that he does have diplomatic and economic options besides what Washington and Seoul can offer", Harry J. Kazianis, Director of Defence Studies at US -based Centre for the National Interest said in an e-mailed statement.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shakes hands with China's President Xi Jinping in Dalian China in this undated
Image Kim Jong Un has met Xi Jinping a number of times already

The talks between the US delegation led by Deputy US Trade Representative Jeffrey Gerrish and including officials from the Treasury, Commerce, Agriculture and Energy departments and the Chinese side were still ongoing late Tuesday, a source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

South Korea's Blue House on Tuesday confirmed that it has been notified by both North Korea and China ahead of the Kim's Beijing visit and has been "sharing information with both countries".

It was the first time US and Chinese officials have met face-to-face since US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) agreed to a tariff truce in Argentina on December 1.

But Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the timing of the North Korean leader's arrival could be coincidental.

Kim's visit comes as a United States delegation opened a second day of talks with Chinese counterparts in Beijing aimed at ending the bitter trade war between the world's two largest economies.

"As to whether this is used as a bargaining chip by China in trade talks, I believe more Americans would think so than Chinese do", the tweet went on to say.

"We especially hope that the exchange between China and North Korea this time will be a stepping stone for the second North Korea-U.S. summit", Kim said.

But relations went through a rough patch in recent years as China backed United Nations sanctions over the North's nuclear tests.

Trump has pushed heavily for Chinese support in convincing North Korea to give up its weapons programs, suggesting that could win Beijing better terms in a trade deal with Washington. "China has actually been a good partner in our efforts to reduce the risk to the world from North Korea's nuclear capability".

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