fter years of living up to his title as the leader of the “Hermit Kingdom,” Kim Jong-un has once again popped up in China — and on his 36th birthday no less!
This marks Kim’s fourth trip to the Middle Kingdom in less than a year after previously not leaving his isolated nation during his first seven years in power. Like with previous visits, this one was conducted in secrecy with both countries’ state media only announcing the trip once Kim was already settled down in Beijing.
As with his first trip to China, Kim arrived in Beijing aboard his distinctive, high-security train. Increased security at the border crossing of Dandong had tipped off South Korean media that Kim was likely headed back for another meeting with Xi Jinping. Later, his motorcade was spotted zooming through the streets of Beijing.
Journalists capture some of the first images of the motorcade carrying Kim Jong Un as it drives through central Beijing at the start of the North Korean leader’s four-day visit to China pic.twitter.com/AaltPWxQRX
— AFP news agency (@AFP) January 8, 2019
The North Korean leader will be in China until Thursday, making this his longest visit to date. Tuesday was his birthday. It’s not clear if any sort of party was held in Zhongnanhai.
The extended visit to Beijing helps fuel speculation that another US-North Korea summit is on the horizon with Kim in town to talk strategy with Xi. Kim met twice with Xi last year beforemeeting with Donald Trump in Singaporein a historic summit that ended up achieving very little. No real commitments came out of the meeting. Both sides only signed a vague pledge to work towards the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
In late December, North Korea said that it would not relinquish its nuclear weapons until the US eliminates its own “nuclear threat.” In a New Year’s address last week, Kim himself declared that though he was committed to denuclearization, he would change course if US sanctions continued.
Kim’s visit to Beijing also just happens to come as US negotiators are in town for trade talks. While China’s foreign ministry claims that this is just a coincidence, some analysts see it as a clear warning to the US that Kim has other options.