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South Korea's Chosun Ilbo speculated Xi wishes to consult with Kim before the North Korean dictator sits down for his second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, much as the Chinese and North Korean leaders met before and after the first Trump-Kim meeting.

Increased security at the border crossing of Dandong had tipped off South Korean media that Kim was likely headed back for another meeting with Xi Jinping.

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.

On this trip, Kim is accompanied by "leading" officials including Kim Yong-chol, vice chairman of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party's Central Committee who has been leading denuclearization talks with the United States, Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho and Defense Minister No Kwang-chol, reported the Rodong Sinmun and Korean Central News Agency.

Kim is making a four-day trip to China in what's likely an effort by to coordinate with his only major ally ahead of a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump that could happen early this year. Kim is also expected to meet Moon again soon, possibly in Seoul.

When asked if Kim's delegation might have contact with the US trade delegation in Beijing, Lu said the two groups were not on the same level.

Lu said China believes contact between the USA and North Korea is important.

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In his annual New Year address last week, Kim Jong Un said that he was "ready to sit with the USA 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 global community".

Neither KCNA nor Xinhua provided further information on Kim's itinerary, though South Korea's Hankyoreh newspaper said on Monday that he will meet with China's Xi for a fourth summit.

"Forcing the US out of Korea, and out of East Asia, is more important to Beijing than reigning in ... a self-confident or even provocative North Korea", he wrote.

"Washington has expressed concerns that China could use the North Korean issue for leverage in its trade disputes with the U.S.", Kuhn reports.

Kim's trip, announced earlier by both sides, comes after US and North Korean officials are thought to have met in Vietnam to discuss the site of a second summit.

"Kim will take advantage of the trade and other disputes between the US and China, he is also going to take advantage of Trump's domestic troubles and squeeze compromise from Trump in the next meeting".

Last week, Trump said he had recently received a "great letter" from Kim, but declined to reveal its contents. However since Kim's outreach to Seoul and Washington, the North Korean leader has coordinated with China in the lead-up to and the aftermath of the inter-Korean Summit with Seoul and the Singapore summit with the U.S. "China has actually been a good partner in our efforts to reduce the risk to the world from North Korea's nuclear capability; I expect they will continue to do so".

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Washington is pressing North Korea to offer up a detailed accounting of its nuclear arsenal, while the North says it has already done enough and it's time for the U.S.to ease the harsh worldwide sanctions that hold back the North Korean economy.

The visit also comes amid reports that negotiations are under way for a second summit between Kim and Trump.

"China has always supported both sides to continue to hold talks and to reach a positive outcome", Lu said.

Trump has been asking Xi to prevail on the North Korean leader to give up nuclear programme.

"Their behaviour has demonstrated that as well and we appreciate that", Pompeo said.

The UN enforced multiple rounds of economic sanctions against Pyongyang past year as punishment for its nuclear development.

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