North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has gone on his first foreign visit since assuming power in 2011, sources with knowledge of the trip told Bloomberg news on Monday. This would confirm earlier reports from Japanese media that a high-ranking official from Pyongyang had traveled to Beijing by train.
Nippon News Network had aired footage earlier on Monday of a 21-car train with green paint and yellow stripes, the same design of train used by Kim’s late father Kim Jong Il when he visited China in 2011.
There were heightened security measures all around Beijing, including closing off Tiananmen Square — something that usually happens only when Chinese leaders are meeting foreign heads of state in the Great Hall of the People. Changan Avenue, a major artery in the capital, was also closed off.
However, a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman told the press that she was unaware of reports that Kim was visiting Beijing.
China has long been the isolated nation’s closest supporter. However, ties have become strained after Beijing backed United Nations’ sanctions against North Korea for its missile program.
Kim’s visit came ahead of planned talks with rivals South Korea and the United States, aimed at soothing tensions that have increased since President Trump entered the White House. Kim is set to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in next month, which could be followed by a sit-down with Trump.