• Kyodo

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A close aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un returned to Pyongyang from Beijing on Saturday, informed sources said, after making a brief trip expected to draw even more speculation after U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly canceled next month’s summit with Kim.

Kim Chang Son, a senior official of North Korea’s State Affairs Commission, arrived in Beijing on Thursday, the sources said, adding he may have planned to also visit Singapore to prepare for the recently canceled June 12 summit there.

Some sources said another reason the North Korean official may have been sent to Beijing was to arrange a visit to Pyongyang by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

When the two met in Beijing in March, Xi accepted Kim’s invitation to visit Pyongyang as soon as possible.

On Thursday strict security was maintained around a special exit for VIPs at Beijing International Airport, in an apparent attempt to prevent journalists and photographers from covering the arrival of a North Korean delegation.

After its arrival, the leader of the delegation was picked up by a Chinese government vehicle and taken to the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, where foreign dignitaries usually stay during visits to Beijing, other sources said.

The details of the senior official’s visit to China are still unknown.

Relations between China and North Korea have improved markedly since Kim Jong Un visited Beijing in March for his first foreign trip since becoming the supreme leader following the death of his father Kim Jong Il in 2011.

The two leaders also met again for two days in the northeastern Chinese city of Dalian earlier this month, just about a month before the scheduled Washington-Pyongyang summit.

Underscoring the improvement of China-Beijing ties, several high-ranking officials from the two nations, including their foreign ministers Wang Yi and Ri Yong Ho, have made reciprocal visits.

Kim has tried to obtain full-fledged support from Xi ahead of critical negotiations with Trump, who has urged North Korea to give up all its nuclear weapons before receiving anything substantial in return, according to diplomats in Beijing.

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