North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has met with Chinese President Xi Jinping during an “unofficial” visit to Beijing, Chinese state-run media on Tuesday confirmed.
Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan welcomed Kim Jong Un and his wife Ri Sol Ju at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing pic.twitter.com/qoK4nu12xF
— People’s Daily,China (@PDChina) March 28, 2018
Multiple reports broke Tuesday night local time and confirmed Kim’s visit to China.
This was Kim’s first visit outside his country since becoming leader in 2011.
The North Korea-China meeting comes ahead of a meeting with South Korea next month slated to be held in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates North and South Korea. That meeting is said to prepare for the three-nation meeting with the United States, North and South Korea sometime before May.
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) March 27, 2018
The meeting was at first shrouded in mystery, as it was not initially confirmed, but rather speculated that Kim had traveled to China for an unannounced meeting.
American Military News first reported on Monday that Kim made a surprise visit to China, according to three anonymous sources who spoke to Bloomberg.
It was not initially known how long Kim would be in China or what the nature of his visit might be, nor who he might meet with. But local reports speculated Monday that a “high-ranking North Korean official” was near the Chinese capital, Bloomberg pointed out – adding that Kyodo News out of Japan said a “special train may have carried Kim through the northeastern border city of Dandong.”
The White House confirmed earlier this month that President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would meet “sometime” before May, on the invitation of Kim himself.
The state-run Korean Central News Agency issued commentary last week that finally hinted at confirmation for the upcoming meeting between North Korea, the U.S. and South Korea.
A possible meeting between the nations was originally the product of South Korea’s efforts in February during the Winter Olympics.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in first invited North Korea to a summit planned for next month in the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two nations on the Korean Peninsula.
Kim then invited President Trump, through a South Korean envoy, to a future meeting.
While many U.S. officials are skeptical about North Korea following through with any formal meeting, supporters of diplomacy say that even the prospect of talks is an encouraging change.
For months, North Korea continued to defy international officials’ pleas to cease countless nuclear missile and bomb tests, even going so far as to threaten the U.S. territory of Guam after fierce words from Trump demanding a halt to their increased military activity.
South Korea has stated that denuclearization could be a topic of discussion during the formal meeting of the nations. But while North Korea seems to have at least paused its nuclear activity for the time being, the rogue nation has not confirmed any sort of agenda for the meeting at this point, and giving up their prized nuclear weapons indefinitely be an unexpected result.