Asia Pacific / Politics

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said to be making surprise visit to China

Bloomberg, Kyodo, Staff Report

Kim Jong Un has made a surprise visit to Beijing on his first known trip outside North Korea since taking power in 2011, Bloomberg News quoted three people with knowledge of the visit as saying.

Further details of the visit, including how long Kim would stay and who he would meet, were not immediately available. The people asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the information.

Sources close to the matter had earlier Monday said a high-ranking North Korean official is apparently visiting China and it could be leader Kim.

The visit is aimed at improving ties with Beijing, the sources said. Relations between Pyongyang and Beijing have been strained over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

As China, worried about possible contamination from nuclear tests, has strengthened economic sanctions against Pyongyang, the official may also seek an easing of the sanctions and the provision of economic cooperation such as food aid and investment.

Kim has reportedly agreed to hold separate summits with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump.

On Sunday, a special train that may have carried the official passed through the Chinese border city of Dandong, the sources said.

Any visit by Kim to China would be his first trip to another country since becoming North Korea’s supreme leader.

In Beijing, a car with a diplomatic license plate of the North Korean Embassy was spotted Monday at the Great Hall of the People, a state building used for activities by the government and the Communist Party of China.

Severe traffic regulations were enforced in Beijing on Monday.

Hotels around the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge linking Dandong with the North Korean town of Sinuiju have suspended reservations for rooms facing the North Korean side since Sunday, in an apparent move to prevent the train from being watched.

Kim and Chinese President Xi Jinping have never met.

Kim’s father, who was known for shunning air travel, visited China four times by train between 2010 and 2011.