Rumors grow about a possible visit of Kim Jong Un to Beijing
The North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, has not undertaken any official trip abroad since the death of his father, in 2011
Beijing was under strong security measures on Tuesday, while rumors of a possible surprise visit by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to the Chinese capital were on the rise, following the supposed arrival of a special train from Pyongyang.
If the hypothesis were confirmed, it would be Kim Jong Un’s first overseas visit since he succeeded his father, Kim Jong Il, at the end of 2011.
Kim Jong Il has never met with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, whose country is applying international sanctions against the North Korean nuclear program, although both nations are historical allies and China is its main trading partner.
On the other hand, a visit by Kim Jong Un to China would serve Beijing to be at the center of the diplomatic game, after the announcement of a summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump.
“China is concerned that it should be left out if the North Koreans reach an agreement with the Americans, which does not necessarily reflect China’s interests,” observes Bill Bishop, China specialist, editor of the Sinocism newsletter.
The possible presence of the leader of Pyongyang was not confirmed on Tuesday either by North Korea or by China, whose Ministry of Foreign Affairs told AFP that it “was not aware” of such information.
Messages about Kim Jong Un were censored on Chinese social networks.
It was the Japanese agency Kyodo that reported a possible visit of the North Korean number one to China, stating that a special train with a top North Korean official on board arrived on Monday afternoon at the Beijing train station, before be received by an honor guard under high security measures.
Japanese television NNN broadcast images of a green train with yellow stripes entering the station, similar to the one used by Kim Jong Un’s father, who did not like to travel by plane and used an armored train.
From his visits to Beijing, the Chinese media reported systematically afterwards, when the North Korean leader had already returned to his country.
– ‘Very unusual’ –
“It was very unusual, there were many policemen outside, along the road in front of the station” on Monday afternoon, the seller of a shop located nearby told AFP. “The interior of the station was also blocked,” he added.
On Tuesday morning, there was a strong security deployment in front of the diplomatic residence of Diaoyuatai, where Kim Jong Il used to go during his visits to Beijing. An AFP photographer saw an official convoy of the residence leave, under police escort.
For its part, the White House could not confirm whether Kim Jong Un was in Pyongyang or not. And the South Korean government, which is usually well informed of the situation in the north, merely indicated that it “was following the situation closely.”
Kim Jong Un plans to meet at the end of April with his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, in the line of demarcation that separates the two countries since the end of the Korean War, in 1953. With Donald Trump, he plans to meet before end of May, although the date and place of the meeting have not yet been confirmed.