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As noted by Chosun Ilbo, "The last time Kim sent Xi a birthday message was in 2013 before relations soured after Kim executed his uncle, who had been a trusted point man in relations with Beijing".

"Our government hopes China will play a constructive role in resolving this problem", ministry spokesman Noh Kyu-deok told a regular briefing.

Kim was diplomatically isolated for years before making his first foreign trip as leader in March to meet with Xi in Beijing. The two leaders also inspected the guard of honour. "I$3 hope both North Korea and the United States can carry out the outcomes of the leaders' summit and ... work together to push forward the peace process". Previously China would only confirm Kim had visited after he had left the country.

Trump separately announced that he had made a decision to halt military exercises with South Korea, describing the "war games" as too costly and "provocative" - a frequent North Korean criticism of the drills.

A North Korean cargo plane typically used by high-ranking North Korean delegations earlier on Tuesday appeared at Beijing Capital International Airport. "Kim will be reassuring Xi that China's interests are not being overlooked".

"[Xi] has really closed up that border", the President said, in comments in which he thanked the Chinese President for his role in bringing Kim to the negotiating table. China is North Korea's most important diplomatic and economic backer but has been angered by Pyongyang's nuclear and missile tests.

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While Washington has said repeatedly it wants Pyongyang to commit to the comprehensive, verified and irreversible disarmament of the peninsula, the joint declaration signed at the Trump-Kim summit did not include any timelines or specific targets. This position is very clear. On Tuesday, Geng said sanctions were not "a goal in themselves".

"China always stands against the so-called unilateral sanctions outside the Security Council framework".

The North's leader, who is believed to have landed in the Chinese capital on Tuesday morning, was greeted with a military honour guard at the ornate Great Hall of the People, as the Cold War-era allies fix ties that worsened when Pyongyang tested nuclear weapons and Beijing backed United Nations sanctions.

Trump said last week after meeting with Kim in Singapore that he would end "war games" carried out with the South Koreans. "This shows that China is moving toward a healthier and more normal direction in relations with North Korea", Cheng said.

"Although Kim was successful in solidifying his legitimacy to rule, he may not be totally happy with the result as there was no mention of easing the sanctions", he said, adding that Trump had not given up anything at a "practical level". For its part, China has been warning of strong retaliation. After his talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Pompeo stressed the importance of China being a constructive participant in the next steps? after the Trump-Kim summit.

North Korea has always reacted to the Ulchi exercises with belligerence and often its own demonstrations of military capability. "[The trip] is about keeping Xi Jinping in the picture after the Singapore Summit", professor Steve Tsang, a political scientist and director of the SOAS China Institute, told Newsweek.