Kim Jong Un made a surprise visit to Beijing on his first known trip outside North Korea since taking power in 2011, three people with knowledge of the visit said.
Further details of his trip, 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.
Speculation about a possible visit by a high-ranking North Korean official circulated around the Chinese capital Monday, after Japan’s Kyodo News reported that a special train may have carried Kim through the northeastern border city of Dandong. Nippon TV showed footage of a train arriving Monday in Beijing that looked similar to one used by Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, to visit the country shortly before his death in 2011.
The unannounced visit is the latest in series of diplomatic power plays in Asia as U.S. President Donald Trump’s battle to lower the U.S. trade deficit becomes entangled with his effort to get Kim to give up his nuclear weapons. Chinese President Xi Jinping has found himself preparing for a trade war with Trump even after supporting progressive rounds of United Nations sanctions against the Kim regime.
The U.S. appears to have had no advance knowledge of Kim’s visit. White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah told reporters on Monday that he couldn’t confirm reports of the trip and “we don’t know if they’re necessarily true.” A State Department spokesman, Julia Mason, responded to questions about the report with a single sentence: “We’d refer you to the Chinese.”