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Xi Fetes Kim Jong-un with Lavish Birthday Banquet

Xi Fetes Kim Jong-un with Lavish Birthday Banquet

Kim's special train departed Beijing Wednesday afternoon and headed towards the northeast border, where it will enter North Korea early Thursday morning.

South Korea's Yonhap News Agency said Mr. Kim visited a technology development zone and spent around 20-30 minutes touring a factory run by famed traditional Chinese medicine maker Tong Ren Tang.

Kim's trip to China, which was made at the invitation of Beijing, came amid speculation that a second summit between the North's leader and US President Donald Trump is imminent.

Chinese President Xi Jinping holds a welcoming ceremony for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un before their talks at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China Tuesday, in this picture released by Xinhua on Thursday.

Analysts say China could use the North Korean issue as a bargaining chip in the negotiations, but Beijing's foreign ministry rejected any link between Kim's trip and the talks.

Kim's trip to China this week followed reports of advanced negotiations for a second summit between Washington and Pyongyang aimed at resolving the standoff over North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes.

North Korean and Chinese state media have announced his visit but provided no details of what he has done since arriving by train on Tuesday morning.

Kim could be looking to leverage his relationship with Xi, who Trump has accused of relaxing pressure on North Korea, to push the make concessions in nuclear talks.

Kim also said North Korea hopes its "legitimate concerns" would be given due respect, a reference to Pyongyang's desire for security guarantees and a possible peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War.

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Mr Xi said China supported North Korea and the United States "holding summits and achieving results, and supports relevant parties resolving their respective legitimate concerns through dialogue".

While North Korea hasn't conducted any launches or detonations in more than a year, it's displayed no real intention of abandoning the programs that are seen as guaranteeing the hard-line communist regime's survival.

Relations between China and North Korea had deteriorated in recent years over Pyongyang's nuclear activities, but Mr Kim has made sure to keep Mr Xi informed about his dealings with the US and South Korea, and ties appear to have warmed.

He also credited President Xi Jinping with helping reduce regional tensions, saying "the Korean Peninsula situation has been easing since previous year, and China's important role in this process is obvious to all".

Kim's visit coincided with trade talks between Chinese and U.S. officials in Beijing. Kim was accompanied by his wife, Ri Sol Ju, the news agency said.

"We always believe that, as key parties to the Korean Peninsula issue, it's important for the two sides to maintain contact and we always support their dialogue to achieve positive outcomes", Mr. Lu said.

Mr Trump said on Sunday that the United States and North Korea are negotiating the location of their next summit.

Trump and Kim reached an agreement to work toward the "complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula", during their first meeting in June in Singapore.