Kim Jong Un is rumored to be in BeijingWatch
It is not officially confirmed, likely due to the security and political ramifications if it is true, but it looks pretty likely that Kim Jong Un is currently in Beijing to meet with the Chinese leadership.
Why does this matter? It has been suggested for a long time now that there have been strains in the China-North Korea partnership since Kim Jong Un took power. Asides from the quick culling of any potential threats to his position as leader (a substantial amount of which were originally aligned with the interests of the Chinese, including his own half brother), he has notably not visited a country long regarded as it's closest ally, nor have their leaders had any direct face to face meeting.
We know that Un will be meeting Trump and Moon, the presidents of the US and South Korea, relatively soon. It was also rumoured that an accepted offer by Putin to visit Russia for WWII commemorations was cancelled at the last minute. Had these visits gone ahead before today's meeting, that would have meant Xi Jinping was fourth in line for diplomatic meetings. Needless to say, meeting a nation you are technically at war with, its ideologically opposed guardian and a minor ally before a long term ally whom shed blood in its aid would not have gone down well in Beijing. That Xi represents the first leader is in a small way a reaffirmation of the partnership that many had started to question.
That this is even worthy of discussion should also highlight the significant change in leverage that North Korea would now be holding in this meeting. Un arrives with the knowledge that the "obedient little brother" attitude of his father when in the same environment will no longer be the approach to be expected. Despite attempts to rein them in by more rigidly enforcing trade and economic sanctions, China can no longer expect North Korea to dance completely to it's tune. This likely goes a long way in the general desire of the North Koreans to be seen with greater importance (and a long term vision as equals) amongst the great powers. Despite what the Trump administration claims, it is clear that it is the North Koreans who have generally dictated the events of recent note, not sanctions organised by the US.
And what of the US? Whilst a trip of this nature will have been planned months in advance, I suspect the new appointment of a National Security Advisor, whom only last month was publically exploring the legal avenues for a first strike on North Korea, will have substantially brought forward this trip. The appointment most likely had a partial intent as a cocked gun should Un walk out or fail to agree anything substantial in discussions with Trump. A reaffirmation of the partnership with China, whom Washington is also currently attempting to pressure economically with tariffs, unboxes Un somewhat and reintroduces an option that the US would have wanted closed.
If this line of thinking is to hold, it very much suggests in my opinion that any rekindling of the partnership is done purely to square both the heavyweights off to extract far more concessions than they would have achieved in the past. Would this be successful? Duterte of the Philippines has followed largely the same playbook (in reverse regarding its starting corner) to a fair degree of success so it can be done.
Can Un manage it without making a fatal step? I can't fault his modus operandi from a geopolitical POV so far when it comes to increasing the attention that other countries have to pay to him now. If he can maintain this heightened standing, he probably has a good chance of doing so.
What do you guys think?
On the one hand if they were to reaffirm ties that bodes ill for anyone facing down North Korea i.e. the rest of the region
On the other if they have a spectacular break up it also bodes ill for the region as its likely he'll do something monumentally stupid to prove a point