President Donald Trump says he’s looking forward to meeting Kim Jong-un at a nuclear summit where he believes there’s a strong chance the brutal North Korean dictator will agree to abandon his illicit weapons program.
Trump said Wednesday that he had received a message from Chinese President Xi Jinping following Kim’s shock visit to Beijing affirming the talks and informing him the conversation had been productive.
The U.S. president welcomed the face-to-face between Kim and his country’s closest ally in tweets that struck an optimistic chord yet emphasized the United States’ commitment to its maximum pressure campaign on North Korea.
‘For years and through many administrations, everyone said that peace and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was not even a small possibility,’ Trump said. ‘Now there is a good chance that Kim Jong Un will do what is right for his people and for humanity. Look forward to our meeting!’
Beijing has confirmed that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has visited China to hold talks with President Xi Jinping, his first foreign visit since taking power
Beijing confirmed reports after the fact that the North Korean leader had visited China for talks with Xi in his first foreign visit since taking power in 2011.
President Donald Trump says he’s looking forward to meeting Kim Jong-un at a nuclear summit where he believes there’s a strong chance that brutal North Korean dictator will agree to abandon his illicit weapons program
The announcement corroborated speculation on Tuesday that Kim was in the country when a train similar to the one the dictator’s father used was spotted making a round-trip to Beijing.
Chinese state media said Xi held talks with Kim at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing — the same government building he entertained Trump in five months ago — and hosted a banquet with wife Peng Liyuan for Kim and his spouse Ri Sol Ju.
‘I have had successful talks with General Secretary Xi Jinping on developing relations between the two parties and the two countries, our respective domestic situation, maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, and other issues,’ Kim said at the banquet.
Kim also committed to denuclearization in Korea if the United States and the South showed ‘goodwill’, it was reported, with China agreeing to support its neighbor if nuclear tensions could be eased.
Kim visited China from Sunday to Wednesday with his wife, Ri Sol Ju, where they held talks and a banquet while Kim said he was willing to talk to the United States
Kim Jong Un, left, and his wife Ri Sol Ju wave from a car as they bid farewell to President Xi and his wife, Ri Sol Ju
During the visit from Sunday to Wednesday, Kim held talks with Xi Jinping in Beijing, where the Chinese president hosted a banquet to welcome the North Korean leader
Kim Jong Un told Chinese President Xi Jinping that it was his ‘solemn duty’ to make Beijing his first overseas destination as he made his maiden foreign trip as leader
Kim visited China from Sunday to Wednesday with his wife, Ri Sol Ju, a South Korean news agency said, with President Xi also accepting an invitation to visit North Korea.
The trip comes weeks after US President Donald Trump accepted an invitation to meet Kim.
Analysts say Kim would have felt a need to consult with his country’s traditional ally ahead of his planned meetings with Mr Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
‘If South Korea and the United States respond with good will to our efforts and create an atmosphere of peace and stability, and take phased, synchronized measures to achieve peace, the issue of the denuclearization of the peninsula can reach resolution,’ Mr. Kim said, according to Xinhua’s summary of his meeting with Mr. Xi.
In a statement Tuesday night, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: ‘The Chinese government contacted the White House earlier on Tuesday to brief us on Kim Jong Un’s visit to Beijing.
‘The briefing included a personal message from President Xi to President Trump, which has been conveyed to President Trump.
‘The United States remains in close contact with our allies South Korea and Japan.
‘We see this development as further evidence that our campaign of maximum pressure is creating the appropriate atmosphere for dialogue with North Korea.’
Kim (right) said he had successful talks with General Secretary Xi Jinping (left) on developing relations between the two parties and the two countries
President Xi and Kim strolled through Beijing together as they did their best to show relations were back on track after a recent chill
Kim and his wife Ri Sol Ju, visit an exhibition highlighting achievements by the Chinese Academy of Sciences
Kim signs a message during his trip to Beijing, which was only recently confirmed by China
Kim Jong-un waves from the window of his personal train during his whirlwind visit to China
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was accompanied by his wife Ri Sol Ju for the unofficial visit
Mr Kim made the unofficial visit to China from Sunday to Wednesday at Mr Xi’s invitation, China’s official Xinhua News Agency said
Kim told Xi that it was his ‘solemn duty’ to make Beijing his first overseas destination as he made his maiden foreign trip as leader, Pyongyang’s official news agency reported.
Beijing has traditionally been the closest ally of secretive North Korea, but ties have been frayed by North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and China’s backing of tough U.N. sanctions in response.
Xi hailed Kim’s visit as embodying the importance with which the North Korean leader regarded ties with China.
‘We speak highly of this visit,’ Xi told Kim, according to Xinhua.
At a banquet in Beijing Kim said: ‘There is no question that my first foreign visit is to the Chinese capital,’ KCNA reported.
Bottoms up: The two leaders enjoyed a glass of wine as they met in Beijing this week
It was all smiles as the North Korean dictator sat down for a banquet during his visit to China
The leaders sought to portray strong ties between the long-time allies despite a recent chill as both countries confirmed Mr Kim’s secret trip this week
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his wife Ri Sol Ju pose for pictures alongside Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his wife Ri Sol Ju are pictured visiting the Chinese Academy of Sciences
‘This is my solemn duty as someone who should value and continue the DPRK-PRC relations through generations,’ he added using the countries’ official acronyms.
Kim confirmed that his nuclear-armed regime was willing to hold a summit with Washington, Xinhua said.
‘The DPRK is willing to have dialogue with the United States and hold a summit of the two countries,’ Kim reportedly said.
‘It is our consistent stand to be committed to denuclearisation on the peninsula, in accordance with the will of late President Kim Il Sung and late General Secretary Kim Jong Il,’ he said.
‘The issue of denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula can be resolved, if South Korea and the United States respond to our efforts with goodwill, create an atmosphere of peace and stability while taking progressive and synchronous measures for the realisation of peace.’
A dark green train (pictured), believed to be carrying a senior North Korean delegation, left the Chinese capital on Tuesday following a dramatic whirlwind visit
Earlier, a motorcade of blacked out cars had been seen entering Beijing Railway Station. The meeting between the leaders of China and North Korea was later confirmed
President Xi said: ‘Both Comrade Chairman and I have personally experienced and witnessed the development of China-DPRK relationship.
‘This is a strategic choice and the only right choice both sides have made based on history and reality…. This should not and will not change because of any single event at a particular time,’ Xi said.
The visit to China marks Kim’s first known trip since taking power in 2011 and his reported meeting with Xi was his first meeting with a foreign head of state.
Kim’s father, late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, visited China several times during his rule, for the final time in May 2011, months before his death.
Past visits by Kim Jong Il to China were surrounded in secrecy, with Beijing only confirming his presence after he had crossed the border by train back into North Korea.
A limousine without car plates and bearing a gold color emblem on its side arrives amid heavy security at the train station in Beijing
A senior U.S. official said the available evidence suggested that Kim had travelled to Beijing to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping. Beijing later confirmed the meeting
Earlier, a motorcade of blacked out cars had been seen entering Beijing Railway Station while a foreign guesthouse in Beijing had a heavy security presence overnight.
The visit came ahead of planned summit meetings with Mr Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
Improving ties between North Korea, which is pursuing nuclear and missile programmes in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions, and China would be a positive sign before the planned summits, an official in Seoul said.
A Reuters reporter saw a convoy leave Beijing’s Diaoyutai State Guest House, where senior foreign leaders often stay, and drive north on Tuesday morning. It was unclear where the convoy was headed.
Later, a journalist saw what was believed to be the delegation’s train pulling out of a Beijing station. The group was reported to have arrived in China on Sunday after crossing from North Korea in the border city of Dandong.
The dark green train bears a distinctive yellow stripe down the side and looks the same as one used by Kim Jong-il in the past
There was a heavy police presence as a motorcade travelled along hang’an Avenue, a major east-west thoroughfare in Beijing
The news of the meeting came amid talk of preparations for a meeting between the North’s reclusive leader and President Donald Trump
Xi and Kim Jong Un had reasons to meet in advance of Kim’s meetings with Moon and possibly Trump, a U.S. official said.
‘Xi has met Trump, and in many respects learned how to deal with him better than some people here do,’ the official said.
‘At the same time, despite the recent tensions, he needs to know what Kim has in mind for dealing with the South and the U.S., and he still has a lot of leverage with the North.’
Beijing is the main ally of secretive and isolated North Korea, as well as its biggest trading partner.
The rail journey between Dandong and Beijing covers more than 680 miles. It takes at least 14 hours by ordinary service, according to Chinese railway timetables.
A South Korean in Seoul watches a television news report about a visit to China by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
Police in tactical gear block a road leading to the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing amid reports Kim Jong-un was in town, which were later confirmed
The train appeared to be the same one that was used by Kim Jong-il to visit China multiple times in the past (pictured here in 2011)
Kim Jong-il pictured visiting China on board a North Korean armoured train in 2001
The North Korean leader is due to hold separate summits with South Korea in late April and the United States in May.
‘The fact that the summits are being held has been beyond our expectations. Right now, the situation surrounding the Korean peninsula is moving very quickly and it would be inadvisable to think with prejudice,’ a Blue House official said.
Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il, met then-president Jiang Zemin in China in 2000 before a summit between the two Koreas in June that year.
Kim Jong Il was considered at the time to have made the visit to reaffirm close ties with China.
‘North Korea likely wants to confirm its relationship with China and believes it has some leverage with which it can ask for things from China,’ said Yoo Ho-yeol, Professor of North Korean studies at Seoul’s Korea University.
‘If North Korea speaks with the United States on its own, it might feel it is at a disadvantage but, if it has China as an ally, Pyongyang may think it will be able to protect its interests and profits during the summits.’
North Korea’s Orient Express: The Kim family’s ‘party’ train
When North Korea’s leaders need to travel, they’ve got a train that’s unlike any other.
No surprise, then, that the appearance in Beijing on Monday of a deep green train with yellow piping that looked a lot like the one used exclusively by the ruling Kim family generated so much speculation of a surprise visit by leader Kim Jong Un.
A day after the train was spotted pulling into the station in Beijing and amid reports it had already left on Tuesday afternoon, there was still no official word about who was aboard and why.
But Beijing later confirmed that Kim Jong Un had travelled to China, his first known trip outside North Korea since the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, in December 2011.
And, oddly enough, it would be a pretty typical way for him to travel.
Here’s a look at what’s known about the North Korean ruling family’s personal version of the Orient Express.
An armoured North Korean train arrived in Beijing on Monday amid heavy security, sparking rumours that Kim Jong-un could be on board
Just how often Kim Jong Un has used the train to get around inside North Korea isn’t known.
But his father, who famously hated flying and had a penchant for a playboy lifestyle, is said to have decked the train out for lavish parties, bouts of heavy drinking and karaoke on his many journeys by rail.
According to an account published in 2002 by Konstantin Pulikovsky, a Russian official who accompanied Kim Jong ll on a three-week trip to Moscow in 2001, the train was laden with cases of Bordeaux and Beaujolais from Paris. Passengers could feast on live lobster and pork barbecue.
A version of the train open to the North Korean public is more businesslike.
A life-sized mock-up of one of the train’s carriages is on permanent display in the ornate mausoleum on the outskirts of Pyongyang where national founder Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il lie in state. According to North Korea’s official account, Kim Jong Il died of a heart attack while on a long-distance train trip.
The display room features a map of the trips the leaders made on the train, with little lights to indicate each stop. One of the many paintings on the wall shows Kim Jong Il standing beside the train on one of those journeys. Kim Il Sung also used the train extensively, taking it all the way to eastern Europe in 1984.
FILE – In this 2010 file photo, a train believed to be carrying then North Korean leader Kim Jong Il moves past Dongjingcheng, Heilongjiang province, China
Inside the car is a desk used by the leaders, along with chairs and a sofa.
Guides at the mausoleum explain that the carriage was used as a mobile office – proof, they insist, the leaders worked tirelessly for the people.
SAFETY ON THE RAILS
Kim Jong Il made about a dozen trips abroad, almost all to China and all by train.
The first was in 1983, while he was still Kim Il Sung’s heir apparent. That was the only time the special train is known to have been used by anyone but the leader himself – another reason why many North Korea watchers suspected Kim Jong Un must have been the main passenger this time around.
Kim Jong Il’s first trip abroad on the train as leader came in 2000, six years after his father’s death. It’s now been six years since Kim Jong Il’s death.
The heavily armored train’s most important feature might be security.
According to South Korean reports, North Korea has 90 special carriages in total and operates three trains in tandem when a leader is traveling – an advance train to check the rails, the train with the leader and his immediate entourage, and a third train behind for everyone else.
Advanced communications and flat screen TVs have been installed so the North Korean leader can give orders and receive news and briefings.
FILE – In this 2002 file photo, then North Korean leader Kim Jong Il waves out of a window of his armored train at the Russian border railway station of Khasan, Russia
For Kim Jong Un’s predecessors, trips were often secret until after they were over.
Experts still couch their estimates of how many times North Korean leaders have traveled abroad because some trips may still remain secret. The Chinese and North Korean media aren’t much help. They are state run and follow the directives of their respective ruling parties.
Kim Jong Il’s trip to China in 2003, for example, wasn’t announced until days later. When he took the train across Russia to visit President Dmitry Medvedev in 2009, local photographers were reportedly banned from documenting the journey through their country. Whole towns in Siberia were instructed to stay indoors and keep off the streets until the train safely passed.
But this time was a bit different.
News of the train’s arrival in Beijing on Monday broke thanks in large part to videos posted on the internet by regular people using their cellphones. Japanese media outlets quickly picked up the videos mixed with shots of heavy security and a long motorcade arriving at a state guesthouse.
That unleashed media stakeouts all over town.
In the age of social media and ubiquitous camera phones, it seems discretion is getting harder everywhere.