Even as an armored North Korean train pulled away from the Beijing railway station Tuesday afternoon, nearly exactly 24 hours after it arrived, the mystery remained in the Chinese capital about whether North Korean leaderKim Jong Un had made a surprise visit to China. While the Foreign Ministry here parried questions over his reported visit which threw the road and rail traffic in Beijing out of gear, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post quoted Chinese "sources" confirming that Kim visited Beijing.
The stories follow an earlier report by South Korea news service Daily NK that large screens were erected by North Korean authorities at a key railroad bridge with China last week to hide what was believed to be the transit of a VIP. 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.
And while it isn't known whether Kim Jong Un has similar tastes, at least when it comes to appetite he has a penchant for Swiss cheese, Cristal Champagne and Hennessy cognac, the Times noted.
Despite their decades-long alliance, forged during the 1950-53 Korean War, China has played a crucial role in global pressure against North Korea over its nuclear program and has signed on to increasingly strict United Nations sanctions. He also shared uneasy relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping over the implementation of United Nations sanctions leading to serious crisis of essential commodities in North Korea. Since taking office in late 2011 young North Korean leader has not left his country, nor has he met yet with any other foreign leader.
White House spokesman Raj Shah said Monday the US could not confirm reports that Kim was visiting China.
"North Korea wants to have some insurance against this upcoming summit meeting with President Trump ... the meeting is very important but also very risky", he said.
Kim recently sent his sister to the Winter Olympics in South Korea and began the process of mending fences with its neighbour.
"Never before have North Korean officials used that special train [seen in Beijing] except for Kim Jong-il", said Chung.
The South Korean government said it was investigating the reports.
White House spokesman Raj Shah said Monday the U.S. could not confirm the reports but said President Donald Trump's "maximum pressure campaign" had "paid dividends and brought the North Koreans to the table".
Un's train had also slowed train traffic in Northeast China and vehicles were also blocked just south of Tiananmen Square with police ordering newsmen to leave the area. That followed reports from Japanese network NTV and public broadcaster NHK of a special North Korean train arriving in Beijing under unusually heavy security.
The guesthouse had been the favored residence of Kim's father, North Korea's former leader Kim Jong Il.
Kim Jong-il's trips to China were only confirmed after his departure.
On the contrary, the official said, a summit with Xi would underscore Kim's standing as a world leader.
China's propaganda ministry released a notice on Monday banning state media from reporting news related to North Korea, one journalist who works for a Chinese state-run media outlet told Reuters.
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