North Korea's Kim Jong-un Reportedly Leaves Beijing by Personal Train

Blanche Robertson
January 10, 2019

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was in Beijing for a surprise visit with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The long train was seen Wednesday travelling on an elevated track over a busy street heading toward eastern China.

Given that it takes more than 14 hours from Beijing to the border city of Dandong by train, Kim stayed less than two days in the capital city.

Details of his visit have not been released, but Mr. Kim reportedly met with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The unannounced trip was largely shrouded in secrecy.

The visit came as trade talks between the USA and China were underway in the city, leaving some to speculate about the message Kim may be sending President Trump.

Trump said on Sunday that the United States and North Korea are negotiating the location for their next summit. The DongA Ilbo newspaper said that Xi hosted Kim at a banquet, which was held on the date believed to be North Korean leader's 35th birthday.

Kim spoke with Xi for about an hour Tuesday night, discussing ways to strengthen their ties and lay out strategy for a potential summit between Kim and Trump on curbing Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions, Yonhap reported, citing unidentified people familiar with the talks. His delegation was seen off by high-ranking Chinese officials and honour guard at a Beijing train station and could return to North Korea as soon as Thursday morning, Yonhap said.

The trip - Kim's fourth to China since March - suggests negotiations over North Korea's nuclear arsenal are gaining momentum after months without high-level diplomatic exchanges.

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A Cheong Wa Dae spokesman declined to say whether Seoul was informed of Kim's visit by either North Korea or China.

Kim's visit also came after he expressed frustration in his annual New Year's address over the lack of progress in negotiations with Washington since the Singapore summit with Trump in June, saying that if things don't improve - meaning that if sanctions relief and security guarantees aren't in the offing - the North might have to find "a new way" forward.

The visit coincides with negotiations between USA and Chinese officials in Beijing to resolve a bruising trade war between the world's two biggest economies. He said Beijing remains supportive of efforts to end tensions over USA demands for a halt to North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

Discussions between the United States and North Korea over Pyongyang's nuclear arsenal have stalled since Kim and Trump's high-profile summit in Singapore in June where they issued a vaguely worded declaration about denuclearisation.

China and Russian Federation, who both wield vetoes on the United Nations Security Council, have called for easing sanctions to reward Kim's move past year to halt weapons tests and dismantle some testing facilities.

Shi Yinhong, an worldwide relations professor at Renmin University in Beijing, said Kim's trip would have no direct influence on the progress of trade talks.

While North Korea hasn't conducted any launches or detonations in more than a year, it's displayed no real intention of abandoning the programs that are seen as guaranteeing the hard-line communist regime's survival.

"The Sino-US trade negotiations are a matter between China and the US".

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