Rumours of Kim visiting China as special train is spotted

Report: N.Korea's Kim Jong Un makes surprise visit to China

What triggered the speculation was a report on Japan's NTV network which showed images of a yellow and green train - similar to the one taken by Kim's father, Kim Jong-il, in 2011 - arriving in Beijing.

Speculation remains rife about whether Kim or his sister Kim Yo Jong or North Korea's ceremonial leader Kim Yong Nam was visiting Beijing.

Shortly before 11 a.m. Tuesday, a convoy of official Chinese cars was seen leaving the east gate of guesthouse, heading in the direction of government offices and the city's two train stations. His younger sister Kim Yo Jong visited South Korea last month as his special envoy.

Tensions temporarily abated in the Korean Peninsula recently over North Korea's nuclear programme after US President Donald Trump agreed for a summit meeting with Kim.

One government source suggested that it might not be the chairman who is visiting China, saying, "There is not enough circumstantial evidence to indicate that Kim Jong-un is visiting China. although the possibility can not be ruled out".

Kim verbally agreed, but didn't think it would be publicized or happen so soon. He said that improving ties between North Korea and China would be a positive sign before the planned summits with United States and South Korea.

Japanese media had previously reported that a "specific train" carrying an unidentified high-ranking North Korean official had arrived in China on Monday.

But there is perhaps a simple reason why North Korea would send a train to China, and China would deny it - smuggling.

China has been largely sidelined by the developments between the two Koreas and the USA, although it has repeatedly given public backing for talks between Washington and the Koreas. The ties have been strained because of Kim not visiting Beijing since his ascension to power and lately China backing some sanctions against North Korea.

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The landmark U.S. summit - the first meeting between leaders of the United States and North Korea - has been earmarked for May.

According to Konstantin Pulikovsky, a former Russian diplomat who drew on internal classified memos from Kim's visit to Russia in 2001, the train was staffed by "beautiful lady conductors" and live lobsters were shipped to stops along the route, along with cases of Bordeaux and Burgundy red wines.

For Kim Jong Il, who was rumored to have a fear of flying - plus a flair for lavishness - It was a comfortable way of travel.

Some analysts had suggested China - the North's only major ally - had been sidelined by Pyongyang's approaches to Seoul and Washington, but a visit by Kim would put Beijing firmly back at the centre of the diplomatic scrum.

Residents living near one of the most heavily guarded buildings in the Chinese capital reported unusually tight levels of security.

North Korean news media has a history of publishing its former leader's China visits but only after he almost finished his trips, probably because of security reasons.

What it comes down to, he said, is "neither North nor South Korea can afford to entirely ignore their giant allies, much as they may want to".

Kim reportedly has at least 90 high-security carriages at his disposal and, each time he travels, there are three trains in operation: an advance security train, the leader's train and a third train to transport bodyguards and other personnel. "We don't know if they're necessarily true", he said.

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