North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may be on a secret visit to China in what would be his first known overseas trip since taking power in 2011, news reports said.
Japanese media outlets first reported that a high-profile figure had arrived via a North Korean diplomatic train and was met with tight security.
Intriguing images from Beijing, captured by Japan's Nippon TV. A 21-car train, similar to one used by Kim Jong Il in 2011, pulled into Beijing Station around 3pm. Met by honor guard and line of VIP cars. Speculation is that Kim Jong Un could be in Beijing. https://t.co/OR40pYEcgG pic.twitter.com/1G5jndciIr
— Martyn Williams (@martyn_williams) March 26, 2018
South Korea said it did not know the official’s identity, but that it was “carefully watching” the situation.
The rail journey between Dandong and Beijing covers more than 1,100km and takes at least 14 hours by ordinary service.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) March 27, 2018
Two sources in northeastern China also told Reuters news agency that “a North Korean visitor” had crossed into Dandong by train.
A spokeswoman of the Chinese foreign ministry said she was not aware of the situation and had no further comment. North Korea’s state-run media had no reports of a delegation traveling to China.
Mr. Kim has summits planned with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in late April and with President Donald Trump by May. While there has been no word of a similar meeting with Chinese leaders, China has been one of North Korea’s most important allies even though relations have recently chilled because of Mr. Kim’s development of nuclear weapons and long range missiles.
Rumor circling in Beijing that Kim Jong Un is in town to smooth relations with Xi Jinping before summit with Trump. pic.twitter.com/Yrii9CbOYr
— Wei Du 杜唯 (@WeiDuCNA) March 26, 2018
Police tightened security along Beijing’s main east-west thoroughfare, Changan Avenue, mid-afternoon on Monday, closing off the entrances to some of the buildings that face the road.
Police also cleared out all tourists from Tiananmen Square around the same time, which normally only happens when important meetings are happening in the Great Hall of the People, where top Chinese leaders often meet visiting heads of state.
There was a large security presence outside the Great Hall on Monday evening.
“North Korea likely wants to confirm its relationship with China and believes it has some leverage with which it can ask for things from China,” said Yoo Ho-yeol, Professor of North Korean studies at Seoul’s Korea University.
Sourced from: Al Jazeera, BBC, The Indian Express, The Hindu
Compiled by: Kalyani S.