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Kim Jong Un Has Visited China In His First Trip Abroad As Leader

Pictures of a massive train accompanied by guards and a motorcade through Beijing fueled rumors that the young North Korean leader left his home country for the first time since 2011. Chinese state media confirmed the visit Wednesday.

Last updated on March 28, 2018, at 7:34 a.m. ET

Posted on March 26, 2018, at 12:26 p.m. ET

Kim Jong Un and his wife paid an "unofficial visit" to China Sunday through Wednesday, according to Chinese state media.

KCNA / AFP / Getty Images

The government-owned Xinhua news agency confirmed the visit Wednesday after the appearance of a massive train in Beijing on Monday drove speculation that Kim had ended his hermitage and taken his first trip abroad since his father died.

Xi Jinping, Kim Jong Un hold talks in Beijing https://t.co/uCJX76DSHA

The state-run news agency reported that Chinese President Xi Jinping invited Kim and that the two leaders discussed denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, among other things.

"The issue of denuclearization 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 realization of peace," Kim said, according to the news agency.

President Donald Trump hailed the meeting, saying he had been told that it "went very well."

For years and through many administrations, everyone said that peace and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was not even a small possibility. 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!

Received message last night from XI JINPING of China that his meeting with KIM JONG UN went very well and that KIM looks forward to his meeting with me. In the meantime, and unfortunately, maximum sanctions and pressure must be maintained at all cost!

Since taking power in 2011 after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, the younger Kim has stayed in North Korea, consolidating power and only rarely greeting officials from outside the country.

Earlier this month, he met for the first time with two high-level representatives from South Korea in Pyongyang, the highest-level meeting between the two countries in years. He and South Korean President Moon Jae-In are supposed to have a summit in April, a historic meeting between the leaders of two countries that technically remain at war.
Handout / Getty Images

Earlier this month, he met for the first time with two high-level representatives from South Korea in Pyongyang, the highest-level meeting between the two countries in years. He and South Korean President Moon Jae-In are supposed to have a summit in April, a historic meeting between the leaders of two countries that technically remain at war.

Kim's meeting with the South Koreans led to President Trump agreeing to meet with Kim, taking White House advisers and the South Koreans by surprise.

That face-to-face has yet to be officially scheduled.In a statement addressing Kim's visit to China, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the Chinese government had briefed administration officials earlier in the day. The briefing "included a personal message from President Xi to President Trump," the statement said. "The United States remains in close contact with our allies South Korea and Japan," Sanders said. "We see this development as further evidence that our campaign of maximum pressure is creating the appropriate atmosphere for dialogue with North Korea."
Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images

That face-to-face has yet to be officially scheduled.

In a statement addressing Kim's visit to China, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the Chinese government had briefed administration officials earlier in the day. The briefing "included a personal message from President Xi to President Trump," the statement said.

"The United States remains in close contact with our allies South Korea and Japan," Sanders said. "We see this development as further evidence that our campaign of maximum pressure is creating the appropriate atmosphere for dialogue with North Korea."

On Monday, photos of a massive train — which looks a lot like the one Kim's father used when he traveled to Beijing — began to circulate, prompting intense speculation.

Intriguing images from Beijing, captured by Japan's Nippon TV. A 21-car train, similar to one used by Kim Jong Il in 2011, pulled into Beijing Station around 3pm. Met by honor guard and line of VIP cars. Speculation is that Kim Jong Un could be in Beijing. https://t.co/OR40pYEcgG https://t.co/1G5jndciIr

Here's some alleged footage of the mystery train steaming ahead in Beijing.

Breaking: North Korean armored train spotted at Beijing, China. Kim Jong Un probably on board.

Aside from the similarities in the train itself, the ~secret visit~ to China lines up with Kim Jong Il's style. His visits to Beijing were always kept under official wraps until they'd ended.

China is traditionally North Korea's closest ally — both due to sharing a border and at least in theory a Communist ideology — but ties have been strained lately over Pyongyang's nuclear tests and missile launches. A trip to Beijing to help clear the air would make sense but nothing is being confirmed on either side.
STR / AFP / Getty Images

China is traditionally North Korea's closest ally — both due to sharing a border and at least in theory a Communist ideology — but ties have been strained lately over Pyongyang's nuclear tests and missile launches. A trip to Beijing to help clear the air would make sense but nothing is being confirmed on either side.

Reporters based in Bejiing noted that train delays along the northeast border likely meant at least someone high-level from North Korea had shown up.

Beijing Rail posted an unusually long list of delays to Weibo -- all of them in the north & northeast near North Korea border. @NBCNews

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson told the AP that "she was not aware of the situation and had no further comment." A spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in the US did not respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment.

Unconfirmed video showed a massive motorcade streaming through Beijing's streets — an entourage befitting a Kim.

Rumor circling in Beijing that Kim Jong Un is in town to smooth relations with Xi Jinping before summit with Trump.

Even the Blue House, the residence of South Korea's president, was in the dark about just who was on the train.

The Blue House in Seoul says it is keeping an eye on the situation in Beijing and monitoring it through a number of routes. Japanese media has reported that a high level North Korean official has arrived by train. Everyone asking - could it be Kim Jong Un? No one knows.

The trip is likely going to be a big one for North Korea ahead of the coming meetings the leader has with South Korea, and potentially Trump — with Beijing's backing secured, North Korea would be in a stronger position for any negotiations.

STR / AFP / Getty Images

Stephanie K. Baer contributed to this report.

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