Heavy security presence fuels rumours of North Korean visit to China

Heavy security presence fuels rumours of North Korean visit to China

The arrival of a special train in Beijing and unusually heavy security at a guesthouse where prominent North Koreans have stayed in the past have raised speculation that Kim Jong Un is making his first visit to China as the North's leader.

Mr Kim has summits planned with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in late April and with US 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 Kim's development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.

A vehicle convoy entered the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing this evening and a military honour guard and heavy security were seen later.

[media=digiteka]vzp08l[/media]

That followed reports from Japanese network NTV and public broadcaster NHK of a special North Korean train arriving in Beijing under unusually heavy security.

A spokeswoman for 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 travelling to China.

South Korea's presidential office said it cannot confirm reports that the train carried Kim nor a separate report that Kim's sister was onboard.

South Korean analysts were doubtful the visitor is Kim Jong Un.

Since succeeding his father as leader in 2011, Kim has touted an image of his country as diplomatic equal to China and it is unlikely he would sneak into Beijing for his first face-to-face meetings with the Chinese leadership, the experts said.

They said it's more likely Mr Kim sent a special envoy, possibly his sister Kim Yo Jong, to appease a traditional ally ahead of his planned meetings with the presidents of South Korea and the United States.

The envoy could potentially seek Chinese commitment for future support should North Korea's talks with rivals fall through, said Du Hyeogn Cha, a visiting scholar at Seoul's Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

"North Korea doesn't want to send a message that China has been pushed to the back as it makes diplomatic approaches to the United States and South Korea," said Mr Cha, saying the visit could be part of the North's effort to gain leverage in the talks with South Korea and the United States.

"If the talks with South Korea and the United States fall through, North Korea will surely try to demonstrate its nuclear weapons and missile capabilities again."

"The special envoy could discuss this possibility with Chinese officials, asking China not to press too hard with sanctions if that happens."

Heavy security was reported at the Friendship Bridge before the train passed from North Korea to China, and there were reports of it passing through several stations on the way from North Korea to Beijing.

NTV reported the green and yellow train appeared very similar to the one that former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong Un's late father, took to Beijing in 2011 and has 21 cars.

A video that aired on NTV also showed a motorcade of black limousines waiting at the train station and rows of Chinese soldiers marching on what appeared to be a train platform. The video did not show anyone getting off the train.

White House spokesman Raj Shah said Monday the US could not confirm reports that Kim was visiting China.

- AP

More on this topic

North Korea threatens to resume calling Trump ‘a dotard’North Korea threatens to resume calling Trump ‘a dotard’

Kim Jong Un rides white horse on sacred mountain as nuclear deadline approachesKim Jong Un rides white horse on sacred mountain as nuclear deadline approaches

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un orders troops to carry out drill near sea borderNorth Korea’s Kim Jong Un orders troops to carry out drill near sea border

Kim Jong Un rejects invitation from South Korea to regional summitKim Jong Un rejects invitation from South Korea to regional summit

More in this Section

Russian disinformation campaign behind leak of Labour's NHS documents, Reddit saysRussian disinformation campaign behind leak of Labour's NHS documents, Reddit says

Truckers block roads as French strikes hit weekend travelTruckers block roads as French strikes hit weekend travel

Musk says faith in humanity restored as he is cleared of defaming British caverMusk says faith in humanity restored as he is cleared of defaming British caver

25 killed in gun attack on anti-government protesters in Baghdad25 killed in gun attack on anti-government protesters in Baghdad


Lifestyle

As we wait, eager and giddy, a collective shudder of agitated ardor ripples through the theatre, like a Late, Late Toyshow audience when they KNOW Ryan’s going to give them another €150 voucher. Suddenly, a voice booms from the stage. Everyone erupts, whooping and cheering. And that was just for the safety announcement.Everyman's outstanding Jack and the Beanstalk ticks all panto boxes

Every band needs a Bez. In fact, there’s a case to be made that every workplace in the country could do with the Happy Mondays’ vibes man. Somebody to jump up with a pair of maracas and shake up the energy when things begin to flag.Happy Mondays create cheery Tuesday in Cork gig

More From The Irish Examiner