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(2nd LD) N. Korean leader wraps up visit to Beijing

2018/06/20 18:26

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(ATTN: UPDATES lead paras with Kim's departure; CHANGES headline)

BEIJING, June 20 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un left China on Wednesday after a two-day stay in which he held talks with President Xi Jinping.

Kim headed back to Pyongyang on his private jet, called Chammae-1, which took off from the Beijing international airport at around 5 p.m., according to informed sources here.

During his third visit to China in less than three months, Kim had a meeting with Xi to discuss Pyongyang-Beijing relations and the denuclearization issue.

His departure came hours after a visit to a farming science center in Beijing, a possible sign that his regime is increasingly interested in agricultural reform.

Earlier in the day, two VIP sedans and other vehicles presumed to be carrying Kim and his delegation were seen leaving the Diaoyutai state guest house for foreign dignitaries. A motorcade was later spotted entering the research center.

"It appears that Kim and his delegation visited the farming science center," a source said. "This might reflect the North's increasing interest in farming reform."

   It is said to be the same facility that a group of North Korean officials led by Pak Thae-song, vice chairman of its Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, had toured during their trip to China in May.

Kim also appears to have toured the Beijing Infrastructure Investment Co. Ltd in the afternoon, a move probably related to his push for partnerships in the infrastructure construction sector, including the envisioned Trans-China Railway (TCR).

The TCR program is designed to link Seoul and Beijing by train through the North's cities of Pyongyang and Shinuiju.

It's a potential major inter-Korean project in the event that the two sides sign a peace treaty some day.

"Chairman Kim's visit to the company can be seen as part of preparations for large-scale joint economic projects in the event that sanctions against North Korea are eased," another source said. "There will be many things to discuss between North Korea and China, especially in connection with the construction of roads and railways."

   According to North Korean media, Pak and North Korean Prime Minister Pak Pong-ju, known for their expertise on science and the economy, are among the officials accompanying Kim.

The North has placed more emphasis on bolstering its fragile economy in a departure from Kim's signature "byongjin" policy of seeking both nuclear and economic development, which was adopted at the WPK's meeting in March 2013.

Kim's latest trip to China came a week after Kim held a historic summit meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore, in which he affirmed his commitment to denuclearization in return for security guarantees and "new" bilateral relations between Pyongyang and Washington.

It was seen as an attempt to consolidate its ties with its longtime ally before launching high-level talks to discuss how to get rid of its nuclear weapons. Some say that it might be intended to enlist support for easing economic sanctions imposed on its regime.

On the Kim-Xi summit, the North's Korean Central News Agency earlier reported that Xi expressed strong support for denuclearization efforts and promised to continue to play a "constructive role" in the process.