North Korean leader Kim Jong un is in Beijing for his first foreign visit after taking power in 2011, indicating the strong diplomatic ties between China and North Korea, especially when Xi Jinping’s Chinese administration had supported international sanctions against DPRK.

Six years after inheriting power from his father, Kim Jong Un has established his authority domestically, taken North Korea to unprecedented nuclear heights, and is now looking to flex his muscles abroad. Since coming to power, Kim Jong un has shown his ability to ‘stamp’ a footprint on global level, without stepping out of the home country. However, which increasing international sanctions on the nuclear state, the North Korean leader has decided to step out to improvise the country’s diplomatic presence – hence, an unconfirmed surprise trip to its stronghold supporter – China.

Mr Kim will hope his visit could be a turning point given that this is not just his first trip to China, but also his only chance to date to see Mr Xi face-to-face. Especially when there has been a recent strain on relations between the two longstanding allies was underlined when China’s President Xi Jinping described North Korea’s long series of recent military provocations as a threat to his country’s national security. Some analysts even suggest that Kim would have felt a need to consult with his country’s traditional ally ahead of his planned meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and President Donald Trump in the coming weeks.

For China too, the unannounced visit is a potential boon given that Mr Xi will not be in any of the planned forthcoming meetings, therefore, Mr Kim’s visit reinforces its role as a key player in the grand diplomatic game that is now being played out. For Xi, he will be keen to have a stronger sense of what Mr Kim expects or is seeking in his big, forthcoming meetings, especially with Mr Trump. Hence, the surprise trip is the latest sign that change is in the air and that the diplomatic mood music in the peninsula in 2018 could become very different from last year.