North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has left for China for a four-day trip, the North’s state media has reported, amid speculation he may attempt to coordinate his positions with Beijing ahead of a likely summit with US President Donald Trump.
The Korean Central News Agency said that Kim departed for China on Monday afternoon with his wife Ri Sol-ju and top officials. It said Kim is visiting China at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The KCNA dispatch came after South Korean media reported late Monday that Kim may be on his way to Beijing aboard a special train for his summit with Xi.
South Korean media reported the train was expected to reach Beijing at about 10 am Tuesday local time. Kim used a very distinctive armoured train made especially for him on visits to China last year.
China’s official Xinhua news agency also confirmed the visit.
Kim’s trip comes after US and North Korean officials are believed to have met in Vietnam to discuss the location of a second summit between Kim and Trump.
Kim said last week in a New Year address he is ready to meet Trump again anytime to achieve their common goal of denuclearising the Korean Peninsula, but warned he may have to take an alternative path if US sanctions and pressure against the country continued.
Kim visited China three times last year as he was engaged in a flurry of diplomacy with the United States and South Korea since he abruptly entered talks about the fate of his advancing nuclear arsenal.
Nuclear diplomacy has reported little progress since Kim met Trump for a summit in Singapore last June.
China is North Korea’s most important trading partner and a key buffer against pressure from Washington.
Tuesday is also Kim Jong-un’s birthday.