BEIJING – A secret meeting between North Korea's Kim Jong Un and China's Xi Jinping this week showed lasting links between the two diplomatic countries Challenge for President Trump.
Kim, allegedly leading his first overseas trip as a leader, chugged in on an armored train in Beijing on Monday and met with Xi and other high-ranking Chinese officials, the North Korean and Chinese press said.
unofficial visit, announced after Kim's resignation from China, comes a few weeks before the North Korean leader will meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in, followed by a scheduled summit meeting with Trump.
The meeting Beijing, the analysts said, was staged to show that North Korean-Chinese relations are back on track, with photos of vigorous handshakes and a report of a sincere toast by Kim.
The message to the United States: Any movement in North Korea must go through Xi.
"Beijing affirms itself and wants to set the agenda for the upcoming summits," said Adam Mount, Senior Scientist and Head of Defense Project at the Federation of American Scientists  "Divisions between Beijing and Pyongyang" It was a great enrichment to Trump's print campaign, "he said d added that new ties would weaken Trump's bargaining position and further reduce the effectiveness of US military threats.
Ni Lexiong, military expert at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said Kim was conflict between China and the US "to obtain benefits from both sides." [North Korea leader meets with China president in ‘unofficial visit’ to Beijing]
In the international press coverage, Kim is often portrayed as irrationally crazy, more of a punchline than a person, let alone a leader. Trump has called him in tweets as a "small rocket man".
Kim's diplomatic debut will make it harder to dismiss him, experts added.
"We see a carefully crafted North Korean diplomacy strategy on the world stage, starting with Beijing," said Jean H. Lee, an expert on North Korea and a fellow at the Wilson Center in Washington, via e-mail.
"To expel China and to reinforce the rhetoric with the United States gave [Kim] the space and justification it needed to accelerate the construction of atomic bombs and ballistic missiles," she wrote. "Now, with a program he believes is a proven threat, he feels encouraged to force the leaders of the region to regard him as equal, not as the young son of a dictator who has power inherited. "
Trump introduced China's role as gatekeeper In a tweet, Xi told him that plans for a US-North Korea summit were on the right track.
"Last night, XI JINPING from China received the news that his meeting with KIM JONG UN went very well and KIM is looking forward to meeting him," Trump wrote. "In the meantime, unfortunately, maximum sanctions and pressure must be maintained at all costs!" [China’s official statement on Kim’s visit, annotated]
China's Xi can deal with "equal". There were few signs that Xi loves Kim.
Just two years after his reign, Kim shouted to his uncle, who was North Korea's most important connection to China, because he had established his own power base.
Then, in 2016, when Xi hosted a G-20 summit in his homeland, Kim led the launch of three medium-range ballistic missiles in the limelight. The South Korean military called the move an act of "armed protest" against Xi.
When Xi sent a top official to Pyongyang last year, Kim did not even see him.
Successive American governments have urged China Take advantage of its economic influence on North Korea to exercise control. But analysts say that China's main priority has always been stability and that it does not want to do anything that could cause the collapse of the Kim regime, which could bring millions of hungry refugees – and US troops – to its door.
Amid Increasing talk of Trump's military options seemed to make China more willing to act. It has enforced sanctions more carefully, carried out intrusive cargo controls and cut off important North Korean exports, including fish and seafood.
These efforts helped Kim return to the table. "In the face of tightened sanctions, rapprochement with China has become an urgent need for North Korea," said Cheong Seong-chang, an expert on North Korea's leadership at the Sejong Institute near Seoul.
Short-term experts See the meeting as a sign that the Trump summit is likely to continue. Kim can now enter these talks with more confidence.
"The visit is a breakthrough of diplomatic isolation imposed on North Korea," said Cai Jian, executive director of the Center for Korean Studies at Shanghai Fundan University.
After Kim has shaken Xi, Kim enters the US negotiating room with "more useful negotiating crosses or a more favorable position to negotiate with the West."
Fifield reported on Tokyo; Luna Lin, Amber Ziye Wang and Yang Liu in Beijing, Min Joo Kim in Seoul and Brian Murphy in Washington contributed to the report.