South Korea watching Kim Jong Un's China trip 'very closely'

(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on March 26)

Japanese media had previously reported that a "special train" carrying a high-ranking Korean official had arrived in China on Sunday to discuss ties between the two countries.

"If this meeting is confirmed, it may actually be more productive than a photo op between [Donald] Trump and Kim in a few weeks".

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was not aware of the issue. Since succeeding his father as leader in 2011, Kim has touted an image of his country as diplomatic equal to China and it's unlikely he would sneak into Beijing for his first face-to-face meetings with the Chinese leadership, the experts said.

North Korea appears to have slowed down operations at its main nuclear site of Punggyeri, ahead of leader Kim Jong Un's upcoming summits on denuclearization with South Korea and the United States.

Questions about the summit have only grown since Mr Trump surprised the world this month (March) by agreeing to meet with Mr Kim after repeatedly threatening war if he did not halt his nuclear programme.

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US President Donald Trump has always been pressuring Chinese leader Xi Jinping to take action North Korea.

If Kim himself hasn't come to Beijing, the other possibility is that the train and the accompanying large delegation seen in video footage from Beijing carried Kim Yo-jong, Kim Jong-un's younger sister, and Kim Yong-nam, North Korea's ceremonial head of state.

Asked about the rumors during a news briefing on Monday, White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah said he couldn't confirm the reports. "We don't know if they're necessarily true", he said.

A China-based source told South Korean news service Daily NK the screens were installed a week ago, and police have been "conducting drills" with traffic barricades.

Beijing has traditionally been the closest ally of secretive and isolated North Korea.

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The rail journey between Dandong and Beijing covers more than 1,100 km (680 miles).

On Chinese social media, some residents of Dandong said there had been high security around the train station there and said there were rumours that Kim was passing through.

Kim's father, who was known for shunning air travel, visited China four times by train between 2010 and 2011.

South Korean analysts were doubtful the visitor is Kim Jong Un.

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