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Kim asked China's Xi to help lift sanctions: report
NORTH Korean leader Kim Jong-un has appealed to China's Xi Jinping to help end sanctions against Pyongyang following his landmark summit with US President Donald Trump, a Japanese newspaper reported on Sunday, citing multiple unnamed sources in the two countries.
Mr Kim made the request during his third meeting with Mr Xi in Beijing last month, and the Chinese president promised to do his "utmost" to satisfy it, the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper said.
"We are feeling great pain due to economic sanctions. Now that we have concluded the US-North Korea summit in success, I want (China) to work towards early lifting of the sanctions," Mr Kim reportedly told Mr Xi, according to the newspaper.
In recent months the Cold War-era allies have sought to repair ties strained by Pyongyang's nuclear tests and Beijing's support of subsequent UN sanctions.
Mr Kim chose Beijing - his main economic patron and diplomatic protector - for his first official foreign trip in March and met Mr Xi again in May in the north-eastern port city of Dalian.
Mr Kim asked Mr Xi to help ease the sanctions that have crippled North Korea's economy, and urged China to back Pyongyang in its denuclearisation talks with Washington, the report said.
Mr Xi in turn told Mr Kim he "actively supports North Korea's reform and opening-up and will proactively cooperate with issues associated with the efforts", according to the Yomiuri.
He also urged North Korea to "continue (its) consultations with China" as it negotiates with the United States, the report said.
China indicated last year that the UN Security Council could consider easing the punitive measures against Pyongyang.
Mr Kim's third official visit to China was seen as a move to reassure Beijing that Pyongyang would not neglect its interests after the historic summit with Mr Trump in Singapore.
China and the US both hope to see the Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons.
But Beijing is concerned Washington and Pyongyang might move closer at its expense, a possibility that China sees as threatening to its economic and security interests in the region.
The Washington Post, quoting US officials, has reported that North Korea intends to maintain some of its nuclear stockpile and production facilities while potentially concealing them from the US.
The assessment comes on the heels of the landmark meeting when US President Donald Trump declared "there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea". Evidence collected since the pair's historic meeting points to secret production facilities and the development of methods to conceal weapons creation - implying Pyongyang is aiming to hide plans to continue its nuclear programme from the US, having made contrary, if ambiguous, commitments to Washington.
Over the weekend, NBC News first reported that Pyongyang has in fact recently been increasing fuel production for nuclear weapons at several hidden sites.
The US network, citing intelligence officials, said North Korea's regime was readying to "extract every concession" from the White House rather than giving up its atomic arsenal.
"There's no evidence that they are decreasing stockpiles, or that they have stopped their production," NBC quoted one US official as saying.
"There is absolutely unequivocal evidence that they are trying to deceive the US," the official said, despite Pyongyang's recent curtailment of missile and nuclear tests.
The only uranium enrichment spot North Korea has acknowledged publicly exists is Yongbyon - though reports of secret facilities have surfaced.
Experts have voiced fear that Washington may accept a lukewarm deal centred exclusively on Yongbyon that disregards known underground sites.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said he plans to meet with Mr Kim to "flesh out" details of the nuclear disarmament promise, but has insisted the North Korean leader is serious.
"There's a lot of work between here and there. My team is already doing it. I'll likely travel back before too terribly long," the top US diplomat said recently.
"We still need to flesh out all the things that underlay the commitments that were made that day in Singapore."
US Defense Secretary James Mattis meanwhile has reassured key East Asian allies that the US commitment to Seoul is "ironclad" - despite Trump's unilateral suspension of military exercises with South Korea and his lauding of Kim as a "talented guy." AFP